NATIONAL Guidance and Religious Affairs Minister Reverend Godfridah Sumaili says she prefers to counsel rather than condemn anybody that speaks on tribal lines as that is what her role entails.

And Rev Sumaili has urged voters to elect leaders who have integrity at this year’s polls.

Speaking when she appeared on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Rev Sumaili said she preferred to counsel anyone who propagated tribalism rather than condemn because that remains her role as Minister.

She said this in response to a question when asked why she was seen not to condemn tribalism, but spoke out more passionately on dressing and women’s attire on social media.

“There are times that somebody may speak something that should not be spoken and I am accused of not condemning that speech. But my role also is to counsel so that if I come out in the open and condemning, how am I going to counsel that person? Things have to be done properly at different levels. The issue of tribalism is serious. I think that we all realise that tribalism is an evil, which will divide us as a people, but also it will affect the welfare of the nation. We need to accept that there are different tribes. I have heard some people say, that, ‘this is a no-go area,’ that should not be heard. We have to guard the words that come out of our mouth. It is these negative words spoken, especially on tribal lines that put fuel to the fire. Let us not focus on character assassination, we have to respect one another and use proper language,” Rev Sumaili explained.

And she urged voters to elect leaders who had integrity at this year’s polls.

“As a nation, we need to have leaders of integrity in place. I think they need to be on the lookout. There are so many people who will be coming and desiring to be in political positions; we need people who genuinely want to serve the people because when you are leader, you are a servant to the people so we are looking for quality and there is a saying, ‘we shall know them by their fruits.’ Even the way they are campaigning should say something about the character of that person,” she said.

Sumaili also hailed President Edgar Lungu’s address to the nation on progress made in the application of the national values and principles in Parliament last Friday.

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the President on a very well thought-out address, but also the encouragement that was given to us and it is an indication of the goodwill of the government and also the people of Zambia on the need to actualise these national values and principles. Actually, according to the Constitution Part 2 and Article 8 and 9 and also 86 (1), there is a requirement there that once a year, the President is supposed to come and give an account on what has been done in terms of realising these national values and principals. So, that gives an indication on how important this national and values are,” she said.

But when asked why children were not taught about values from a younger age, Rev Sumaili said that the school syllabus was being reviewed.

“The Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs is working very closely with the Ministry of General Education. Right now, as I am speaking, they are reviewing the curriculum so that the issues of values are incorporated in the syllabus starting from nursery up to the University of Zambia (UNZA). I think we have done quite well and I know that there are some universities, who have incorporated national values in their syllabus. There is Mulungushi University, and also Copperbelt University; they have a programme in ‘mindset change’ and that focuses on values and principles,” replied Rev Sumaili.

“The issue of morality and ethics is so critical to the wellness of our society because when we are talking about morality, we are talking about moral uprightness, we are talking about shared beliefs and if this morality is not taken seriously, we have a lot of problems. And I can say that as a nation, we are dealing with a number of issues that need serious attention and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is one of them, we have child marriages, which is very worrisome; we have teenage pregnancies; we have alcohol and drug abuse and also the abuse of social media…All these are issues, which need to be attended to.”