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18 October, 2016

Encountering Pneumatic-Politics: A Field Research Report

By: Chammah. J. Kaunda (PhD)

This report is based on the initial field research conducted among Pentecostal Christians in Lusaka and Ndola from 3 April to 12 June 2016 as a part of Nagel Institute research entitled ‘Politics in the Spirit’:  Pentecostal Spirituality, Missiology and Impact on Political Culture in Postcolonial Zambia.

The research aim was to explore the ways in which Zambian Pentecostalism has impacted Zambian political culture through political engagement and theologies of spiritual redemption of national life. The main objective of the investigation is to analyse how Pentecostal missiological spirituality grounded in the power of the Holy Spirit and sustained by African traditional spirituality has contributed to shaping postcolonial Zambian political culture.

The methodology was flexible and multidimensional. It included in-depth and standard unstructured interviews, group discussions, surveys, narratives, observations, informal conversations, and collection of relevant writings and sermons, pictures and music.

The interviews were conducting during campaign period. This means that making sustainable appointments was a challenge as most key informants were busy with campaigns. There was also a lot of violence during this period. It was reported that four people were killed in Matero Township in Lusaka. Some Pentecostals were fearful that politicians were killing people as ‘seed offering to win elections’. The fearful locals at one time turned xenophobic and accused Rwandese for perpetuating ritual murders.

The fear of witchcraft in Zambia appears to be escalating, especially during election periods. The police also shot and killed female cadre of UPND in an attempt to cancel an illegal opposition match and political rally in Chawama, in Lusaka.

There was also a day I missed three appointments in Lusaka because it was a presidential nomination day for the ruling party called Patriotic Front (PF). This resulted in my being stuck in traffic for almost 4 hours. I also heard that PF cadres fired five shots and injured about 10 supporters of an independent candidate of the opposition party. During the same week the billboards of the main opposition party called United Party for National Development (UPND) were ripped off in both Lusaka and Ndola allegedly by PF cadres. In retaliation UPND cadres started vandalising billboards of PF.

The PF has received enormous support from some Pentecostal Christians. Some of them formed a Christian campaign wing called ‘Christians for Lungu’ (Edgar Lungu is the President of the PF and currently the national president). I had an opportunity to interview the founder of this campaign wing, who believes that 2016 was “a spiritual election, a battle for the soul of Zambia, so we have to ensure that Zambia Christian heritage is sustained, it’s secure and keep it secure by keeping the man in power that God has called for the season.” The organisation has four objectives – to mobilise Christians across denominations to vote for Lungu, to be a think tank for PF, to promote peace, and pray for the government.

The study shows that Pentecostal spirituality has become an ideological battleground for understanding Zambian political culture. Pentecostalism has made significant impact in making on Zambian political culture. They have redefined their missional agenda as ‘politico-pneumatic-praxis’ which brings spiritual dimensions to their political engagement. The notion of salvation is redefined within the seven mountain missiological approach to society. This discourse originated from North America in form of prophecy in 1970s. It calls believers to have influence in homes, churches, businesses, politics, media, arts and entertainment, and education. The notion of salvation is extended to the redemption of the nation itself. Some Pentecostals kept on saying the nation goes through the process of salvation just like human beings. It has to be “born again” first and then begin the process of sanctification (in secular terms, transformation). Some believe in Pentecostalising political domain which they link to the discourse of the main ‘spiritual alter’ of the nation as a key for national full redemption and has consequences for influencing other mountains.  

 

 

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