You can’t ban religion, says Banda

By Staff Reporter

Political activist Azwell Banda has said there is no way the Socialist Party can ban religion when in government.

And Banda said the party stood a chance of entrenching itself into the masses, looking at the demand for an alternative political movement in the country.

In an interview, Banda, a socialist domiciled in South Africa, said the Zambian society should not fear that a socialist state would ban religious practices because it was impossible.

Since the launch of the Socialist Party in Zambia, the ruling party and its allies have been on a smear campaign, accusing the party of, among other things, planning to ban religion when it formed government.

“I’m not aware of anyone in the leadership of the Socialist Party who has advanced the idea that religion must be banned. I think that any serious socialist understands that you can’t ban a religion, you can’t forbid religions to be practiced,” he said. “What you do with any system of thought is to test it in practice; change the conditions, improve the conditions of life so that in fact human beings should entirely on their own choose to believe whatever they want to believe in. If you ban religion it will reproduce and come back in large quantity, so why do that?”

And Banda has advised the Socialist Party leadership to study carefully the political and economic environment and provide the message people want.

“The Socialist Party, if it studies very closely what is happening in the Zambian economy, what is happening in Zambian society, has a very, very good chance of rooting itself in the mass of the people. We have a very young population which is impoverished; young people finish school they can’t find work. And even when they finish school the quality of education is mediocre. You have a mineral sector which is foreign owned, you have an energy sector which has not been invested in sufficiently to be able to respond to the changes,” Banda said.

“If the Socialist Party of Zambia was to base itself on the genuine problems of the mass of the people I see no reason why it should not do well. But if the Socialist Party of Zambia bases itself on an appetite for participating in elections it’s going nowhere because that terrain is the terrain for those who are ready for violence, it’s a terrain for those who are ready to mobilise on regional basis, it’s a terrain for those who want to use tribalism. And above all it’s a terrain for those who are corrupt. So, yes, the Zambian situation is objectively ripe for a socialist transformation because only a socialist economy can generate the kind of debate that is healthy.”

Meanwhile, Banda said President Edgar Lungu’s administration would continue to promote violence and regionalism because they could only win an election under such conditions.

“The explanation is very simple: the majority of voters in Zambia have been reduced to extreme poverty and Lungu is master at manipulating that himself. It is not possible for those who are coming from the middle class; for example, to express themselves in the way they think they should express themselves. They’re looking for clean politics, they’re looking for politics without tribalism, politics without regionalism and so on,” said Banda. “But the degree of material and cultural poverty in the country now has reduced the mass of the population to that level; to a level where those forms of politics are not viable anymore, you must understand that. And the current crop of leaders therefore are exploiting that poverty; which is also poverty in terms of culture and political consciousness. The trend should in fact continue. Lungu can only continue to win because he’s a master at exploiting violence, exploiting the mass of the people, particularly young people who are unemployed. What therefore can be the content of politics in such an environment? It’s regionalism, it’s money, it’s bribery, it’s corruption.”