The growth of Evangelical Christianity in Africa is having a positive effect on African nations’ relations with Israel. An Interview with Dr. Saviour Chishimba of Zambia.
There is a new generation of young leaders in Africa who see Israel as a valuable partner in helping the various nations of the continent’s future economic and technological development. Many of these leaders come from the growing Evangelical Christian denomination and its influence it has on the politics of these nations. Dr. Saviour Chishimba of Zambia, a Christian believer, who recently announced plans to run in the presidential elections in Zambia to be held in 2021, is an example of this.
“Israel is a key part of my plans for a better future for Zambia,” declared Dr. Chishimba, who recently completed a three-month fact finding mission to Israel, to expand the breadth of his knowledge of the country.
In a special interview with Mida we sought to understand what is behind the awakening towards Israel in Africa and how, as in other parts of the world, we see the positive influence of Evangelicals on the policy of governments around the world towards Israel.
Israel itself has invested considerable efforts in recent years in strengthening relations throughout the continent. Chishimba says that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent visits have raised awareness of the issue, although there is still room for improvement. “African leaders know that they need Israel to help their countries, mainly through science and technology, but the majority is caught up in political correctness on issues related to Israel. They distance themselves from Israel because Israel-haters portray Israel as evil and an aggressive factor against the Arabs, even though the Jews have actually returned to the land of their ancestors.”
Chishimba’s Christian faith, shared by most of Zambia’s citizens, is one of the main factors behind his positive attitude towards Israel. “I grew up in a family of devout Catholics, my older sister is a nun. For the past 12 years, I have been part of the messianic community in Zambia, composed mostly of evangelicals who believe in the Torah.”
The people of Zambia are very spiritual and some of the most friendly in Africa. The religious composition of the population breaks down as follows: Protestants (Evangelicals, Assemblies of God, etc.) 75.3%; Catholics, 20.2%; Muslim: 0.5%; Others: 4%. Zambia is the only nation in Africa declared as a Christian state by constitutional legislation.
Q: Are there Jews in Zambia?
“There are and they are planted in the history of Zambia. Jews emigrated to Zambia in the 1930’s and 1940’s and participated in the struggle for Zambia’s independence. My mentor, Mr. Simon Zukas, was deported by the British to England because of his leadership during the struggle for independence. Mr Zukas is a Jew who settled in Zambia from Poland. Today he is over 90 and in the past he served as a government minister in an independent Zambia.”
Q: As a former Parliament member, Can you tell us a bit about the political system in Zambia?
“Zambia is a democracy with a hybrid political system. We have elements of a Westminster parliamentary system and the American presidential system. The President of Zambia is both of the Head of State and Government with immense powers.
Our elections are tripartite. This means that voters elect the President and the running mate, Members of Parliament and Members of Local Government (councils) on the same day on different ballot papers. Under this system, it is possible to be elected President with few MPs or no MPs at all. The President has power to nominate 8 MPs to Parliament. Interestingly, the law gives the President the power to appoint ministers from among MPs, even if they do not belong to his party.”
Q:You declared that you will run for president in the next elections in 2021. What is your main agenda?
“As President of the UPP, I am already the party’s preferred nominee for the 2021 elections. My main agenda is radical change of service delivery systems to eliminate corruption and invest the country’s resources in job creation, healthcare, education and food as key priorities. To achieve this, I propose to implement an industrial revolution which will make agriculture the base and the industry the leader. More than 80% of Zambians survive on subsistence agriculture and these use hand tools for cultivation. This will change through mechanization of agriculture and entrepreneurship development in the agro-processing sector. I certainly hope to cooperate with Israel and Israelis regarding these issues.”
Q: You mention Israel. In the last two years PM Netanyahu visited Africa twice. What brings so many African leaders to meet with PM Netanyahu?
“I commend the efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for this heroic efforts and astute leadership in bringing Africa and Israel much closer than ever before. I believe that many African leaders turned up for the meeting in Kenya because there is a general awareness among African leaders of Israel’s success. African leaders know that they need Israel to transform their nations…”
Q: Why do you feel so positive towards Israel?
“Zambia’s industrial revolution for economic development under my government will be incomplete without Israel. Partnership with Israel in agriculture, education, security, health, trade and commerce, among other key sectors, will be at the center of all government programs.
I will not be the first president to do this. Between 1964 and 1974, Zambia was among the richest countries in Africa and Asia. Countries like Singapore and Malaysia were far poorer than Zambia during the same period. Our nation’s prosperity was driven by the ingenuity of the Jews. Israelis built the first, and still the biggest, university in Zambia called University of Zambia in 1966. Israelis also built the biggest hospital in Zambia called University Teaching Hospital.
In addition to this, Israel helped train intelligence officers. Technical cooperation in other key sectors helped develop the local ability to build and sustain the economy. Things changed when the then President cut relations with Israel in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War. Mysteriously, Zambia’s economy took a downward spiral instantly and by the mid 1980s, food riots started in the country due to starvation. The situation continued to deteriorate until President Kenneth Kaunda, who was a dictator, was voted out of power in 1991.
The next President, Mr. Fredrick Titus Jacob Chiluba, renewed relations with Israel and an immediate change in the economy occurred.
Apart from the history that Zambia and Israel share, the current advancement of Israel in science and technology make a clear case for my being more positive about Israel than any other country.”
Q: How do you see the relationship between Zambia and Israel?
“Israel must be Zambia’s number one ally number, because the Christian Nation declaration naturally binds Zambia to Israel as the holiest place in the life of every Christian in Zambia. The Jesus Christ all Christians profess to believe in, was born and died a Jew. Beyond faith, Israel has made many advances and Zambia has more to benefit from the relations.”
Q: Why then, did Zambia vote against Israel in recent UN votes?
“Unfortunately Zambia either stands aloof or votes against Israel under the current Patriotic Front (PF) party-led government. It was only the Government of late President FTJ Chiluba that stood with Israel between 1991 and 2001. This position clearly stems from the pursuit of political correctness in the eyes of the international community rather the pursuit of truth, which is in the best national interest of not only Israel, but also Zambia. What Israel did for the people of Zambia between 1964 and 1973/4 remains unbeatable by all standards. When I’ll be elected, I intend to change the voting patterns in Israel’s favor.”
The Zambian government has in recent years established relations with all the Arab countries, and has even sent an official representative to the Palestinian Authority. Zambia has also developed relations with Iran and is trying to promote economic partnerships with it, but according to Chishimba, this process only hurts its country. “In Zambia there are many Lebanese businessmen, and some of their money is not left in the country but goes to Hezbollah. There is also support for terrorism and an attack on the economy of Zambia.” He said that since he tried to expose the issue of Iranian involvement, he had been threatened with his life. “I am talking about these issues openly and with evidence, but I will continue to expose the truth.”
Q: What did you learn during your recent visit to Israel that you didn’t know before?
“There is always something new in Israel. For instance, I did not now about the City of David and yet I have been walking past the City of David enroute to the Western Wall without any slightest idea that I was stepping on a site that confirms and puts a stamp of approval and authenticity that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel. All foreign nations that destroyed the first and second temple equally maintained their presence from the same place. The City of David is, no doubt, the piece of evidence that United Nations must not dispute.”
“I visited Samaria and was impressed by the land of the Bible, the historical sites, Strategic security importance, the work of Jews and Arabs in the factories and the damage caused by the BDS movement to Palestinians workers and their families. The reality that looks completely different from the distortion most of the media presents to us. I tell people, go see by your own eyes.”
“On Israel Memorial Day, I was privileged to participate in the main ceremony for the Druze community in Usfiya and then visited the home of the parents of Superintendent Allam Saba who was a Border Police officer and fell in 2001. I heard from his brother Nasser a lecture about the Druze community. Actually the first time I heard the word Druze, was on the way from Ariel to Usfiya that day.”
“I also met the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, heared a lecture about the Arab-speaking Christians in Israel and met with Jerusalemite Christians. I became familiar with the place of minorities in the State of Israel and the positive attitude towards them. These are things I did not know before.”
“It should be noted that I was privileged to be here during the period when the US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The decision of US President Donald Trump to move the embassy to the place where it is supposed to be is a historic act of justice. When I become the president, I will move the Embassy of Zambia to Jerusalem. The Land of Israel and its capital, Jerusalem, are filled with absolute evidence that Jerusalem has always been the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. It was on Mount Moriah of Jerusalem, where the binding of Isaac took place. King David was king in Jerusalem, and my visit to the City of David was characterized by a sense of awe when I saw with my own eyes the archaeological discoveries, what was discovered and the continuation of the excavations.”
Dr. Chishimba ended the interview with the declaration that “Israel and the Jewish people shall never ever be vanquished again!”
Amit Barak is a Consultant on Christian enlistment in the IDF and Christian integration into Israeli society