The head of a Pentecostal church based in Zambia has been sharply rebuked after accusing members of Zambia's government of selfish behavior and short-sighted policies.

Late last month Archbishop John Mambo, regional superintendent of the Church of God in southern Africa, based in Zambia, became involved in controversy because of his criticism of ministers in President Frederick Chiluba's government.

Archbishop Mambo, whose church is linked to churches in the United States and has 1.6 million members in Zambia, told ENI that President Chiluba had surrounded himself with selfish, inept politicians whose main interest was amassing wealth at the expense of Zambia's impoverished population.

"Today the richest person in Zambia is the politician, while the poor are getting poorer," he said, adding that the ministers had become "so ineffective that every decision taken has to be approved by the president."

He asked: "What is the use of having all those ministers and their deputies, if small problems like mending potholes in the country takes President Chiluba's intervention?"

Archbishop Mambo said President Chiluba's political survival was in serious jeopardy, and he must get rid of the "bad eggs" around him.

Archbishop Mambo also told Ecumenical News International (ENI) that some opposition parties in Zambia were very weak and disunited, and unable to provide serious criticism of the government. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were "stronger and more forthright when it comes to speaking on behalf of the disadvantaged majority."

The archbishop's remarks have been rejected by both the government and opposition leaders. Newstead Zimba, government minister for information, said Archbishop Mambo's criticisms were unfounded.

The archbishop should desist from making blanket condemnations of government ministers, Zimba said. If the attacks on government ministers continued, the archbishop risked being "branded an empty religious tin."

Wynter Kabimba, spokesman for seven opposition parties grouped as the Zambia Alliance for Progress (ZAP), said that in fact Archbishop Mambo and many Pentecostal clergymen had always defended the government when it came under attack from the opposition parties."

Church leaders should not speak for the poor only when it suits them," Kabimba said. "The church must redefine its role and work with those organizations that fight for the poor."

Copyright © 2000 Ecumenical News International. Used with permission.

Related Elsewhere's recent coverage of Zambia includes:
Eight Years after Zambia Became Christian Nation, Title Not Convincing | Immorality and corruption on the rise, say church leaders (Jan. 18, 2000)
Zambia President Disillusions Christians (Mar. 2, 1998)