The challenge of poverty for the church in Zambia : a response to the effects of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP)
The effects of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) that have been the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) prescribed economic reforms have accentuated poverty levels in Zambia. For the majority ofthe population, the Structural Adjustment Programmes have exacerbated poverty if not directly contributing to it. This paper argues that poverty has a historical aspect dating back to the colonial strategy of establishing and perpetuating rural-urban dual structures. The Zambian government upon attainment of independence continued this dual economic structure. The dualist approach favoured urban areas at the expense of rural areas in terms of social and economic development. To date it is estimated that 80% of Zambia's population of about ten million people (2000 Census) lives under conditions of abject poverty. The Zambian economy did well in the first ten years of independence (1964 -1974), but went on a continuous decline from that period to date. Both internal and external factors have contributed to the continuous steep decline ofthe economy and subsequent increase in poverty levels. Among efforts to turn round the economy, the Zambian government in cooperation with the IMF and World Bank embarked on the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP). President Kenneth Kaunda hesitatingly introduced the first SAP in 1981. The economic reforms, particularly the decontrol of prices and abolition of subsidies resulted in the increase of prices of foodstuffs leading to civil disobedience, violence, riots, looting and deaths in 1986. The SAP also contributed to income disparities. In 1991 when Frederick Chiluba won the presidency, he implemented the SAP fully. The implementation ofthe SAP meant the decontrol of prices and removal ofall forms of subsidies. The immediate effect was a rapid rise in prices and poverty levels. This paper argues that in the face of this poverty the involvement of the Church has not been as comprehensive as taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Emphasis has r-emained on spiritual emancipation with little stress on material well-being. Equally there has not been participation in decision-making by the affected people as the government and the donor-community make most decisions without consulting the citizens. There also seems to have evolved a culture ofdependence on "handouts" or free things, and lack of good work ethics and standards. The improvement in the standards of life of the people may be realized if the Church through its prophetic ministry challenges global capitalism so that the powerful and rich western countries accept the New World Order that the Third World has been advocating for many years. The Church should also voice the fact that the Zambian politics and economic policies should not be motivated by profit making and individual gain but by a desire for hard work and fair distribution of the world and nation's wealth. It is further proposed that the best economic and development policies are those that sustain human life and bring a better life in every human community. This ideal may be fulfilled if the Church through its diaconal ministry gets involved in developmental issues.