JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
“THERE is only one way to go, it is up,” says Dr Nevers Mumba, sitting on the verandah of his Chudleigh home.
For the past six years, the fiery preacher who joined politics in 1997, has been in court answering charges of abuse of office when he served as Zambia’s ambassador to Canada.
But two weeks ago, the judge gave the clergyman an absolute discharge, meaning he did not find any record of wrong-doing in his conduct, closing that chapter.
However, some media houses, including the Zambia Daily Mail, misinterpreted the verdict as a conviction that would affect Dr Mumba from running for public office in future.
“I have no conviction, therefore there is nothing that stops me from standing for president, and I want to make it clear that I do qualify to stand for President of the republic of Zambia,” says Dr Mumba.
But he has one more court battle, one that will determine whether he stays at the helm of the former ruling party – the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) – after a group led by Minister of Works and Supply Felix Mutati tried to depose him, leaving the party divided.
Dr Mumba’s political career has been fraught with vicissitudes, but he says that is the philosophy of life – mountains and valleys.
“One time I’m in the valley, the other I’m on the mountain top, but I’m never in-between,” he once told me in 2012.
And while some view his bad experiences in politics as punishment from God for leaving his active role in the church to join the political field – a Jonah of sorts – Dr Mumba, himself, sees his tribulations as a good sign that God has called him to lead the country.
“The difficulties I have gone through in terms of betrayals, the persecutions that I have gone through do not scare me, it only confirms that God has called me to this process,” he says.
He describes his journey as “long and hideous”.
So is he discouraged?
“Absolutely not,” he says. “I read the Bible; I read the Daniel story, I read the Joseph story, I read the Moses story and I read more than anything else the Jesus story, none of those became what God wanted them to become until they had those jail experiences.”
“I remain confident that what I have gone through is just part of the process, it does not affect me in any way, except for the delay that I have experienced, the pain that I felt, which is temporary,” he says.
Dr Mumba says he is not moved by what he has gone through.
“What moves me is the dream for Zambia. My dream is bigger than politics. My dream is a country that walks in the light of the fear of God,” he says.
He adds: “The goal that God has given me is still as fresh as it was yesterday.”
Call him stubborn, call him arrogant, Dr Mumba seems unwavering in his pursuit of his “Zambia shall be saved” dream.
“They can imprison me and put me in a prison in Mwembeshi, but they cannot imprison my dream for this country. It shall never be imprisoned,” he says.
And after being to prison, Dr Mumba perhaps now feels that he has paid the ultimate price.
He says: “I have been down to the bottom, there is no downer that I can go.”
“I believe we have paid the price and we have run the particular race that we needed to run and now we must participate in ensuring that we provide whatever we can provide to make our country better,” he says about himself and his party.
And although he says the experiences have been painful and unfair, he says he does not hold any grudges against any person.
“Sometimes I try to find a way to hold a grudge, but I fail to do that,” he says.
“When I was sitting on the floor of my prison cell at Mwembeshi maximum prison, I was trying to consult my mind to identify individuals that I would hate for the rest of my life. I started to think what I would do when I got out and how I would lush out, make my views known and give people a piece of my mind, but somehow there was no capacity within me to create that energy of bitterness or revenge,” he says.
“I’m grateful to God that I’m still alive, my wife still by my side, my five children all of them love God and now working. My grandchildren are healthy. God has been good to me besides the tears that I have shed. We now have to fix the country, and until Zambia is saved, I really cannot rest,” he says.
“I remain committed to my country, I remain committed to ensuring that Zambia experiences a better day for our children and our children’s children,” he says.
After an illustrious career as a preacher, Dr Mumba’s entry into politics has always been frowned upon by some who thought he was better as a preacher than a politician.
But Dr Mumba says even his own father was disappointed many years ago when he decided to become a preacher.
“But my father died a proud man,” he says. “He was very proud of his son. Each time he sat there and watched me preach, that is the only story he told his friends, but prior to that, he thought it was a wrong move.”
“That is what leaders do, they go ahead of everybody and everybody throws stones at them because they think they are going the wrong way, but later they realise that actually they were headed the right way,” says Dr Mumba.
JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka