Observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy is one of God’s commandments given unto us, but going to Church every Sunday is no guarantee for one to enter Heaven. Similarly, declaring our country a Christian nation does not make our land any holier, and neither does it discount our sins.

In order to measure how Christian Zambia is, one has to look at how its leaders treat each other. The kind of hatred that is prevailing in the political arena today speaks volumes about the ethos that we espouse as a nation. Clearly, there is nothing Christian about Zambia, apart from the hypocritical proclamations that we make with our sinful mouths.

Just last week, a Lusaka magistrate convicted one of the top opposition political leaders and sentenced him to three months imprisonment on grounds that he gave false information to a police officer. Nevers Mumba, a faction president of MMD, was found innocent on the charge of trespassing at Mass Media Complex, but was found guilty of lying to an officer manning the entrance, that he had an appointment with the news editor when in fact not. For this reason, the former republican vice-president and pastor, was condemned to jail where he is languishing to date.

In a true Christian nation, this would sound like a befitting punishment for a lying manservant. But in a country like Zambia where a President is a bigger liar than a common criminal facing trail, you would expect a judge to exercise a certain level of leniency for such an offender.

Lately, it has been hard to hear Edith Nawakwi’s voice because of her rumbling stomach, but we conquer with the FDD leader when she asks why a magistrate would jail an opposition leader over a misdemeanour that could be settled with a fine.

“I was shocked last week to learn that one of us, that is Dr Nevers Mumba who is also a pastor and the minister of the word, has to spend Easter in prison. I said to myself ‘where are we?’ I would have thought that the misdemeanour that Dr Nevers Mumba did is far much less than the deaths of our young men and women who died at the hands of the police in 2016. The sins of 2016 are more serious where some people died, some people broke hands,” recalled Nawakwi.

“As a mother in the team of these very few politicians, I say to our dear President, I think that the courts have done their part. Step in as a Head of State, as soldier number and get your brother out of the dungeon this Easter. We should be empathetic with our brother who is in prison. It’s not necessary. This was the worst time to get a brother into jail. Of all the electoral offences that were committed in 2016, how come only one of them has got so much weight and that is about Nevers Mumba walking into a TV station?”

Indeed, we would like to know what happened to the police officer who shot dead a UPND cadre in July 2016. We would like to know who caused the electoral bloodshed that led to the 10-day suspension of campaigns in Lusaka prior to the general elections. Zambians would like to know how Malawians were allowed to register as voters in 2016. Police instituted investigations into all these crimes, so we would like to know if anyone has been in court or sentenced to imprisonment for any of these serious atrocities.

Considering that he has lied on many occasions himself, how can President Lungu fail to exercise his prerogative on Pastor Mumba? How is the Head of State managing to swallow food with a clean conscience, knowing that his brother is languishing in prison for such a minor offence? Is this what it means to be a Christian nation? Is this loving your neighbour as much as you love yourself? Does this demonstrate the Bible teaching of forgiving each other 70 times seven? Surely, Pastor Mumba deserves fair treatment on this offence, and we hope that President Lungu is doing unto the opposition leader what he would love his successor do unto him.

In saying this, however, we are in no way suggesting that Pastor Mumba is the most undeserving prisoner serving a jail sentence. There are many innocent inmates in our prisons today. Some of them will die inside the 12 feet walls without seeing a day of justice. They are in prison to pay for the sins committed by the rich and powerful in society, but their injustices do not even get publicised because these are low profile citizens who have no one to speak for them.

Our point, nevertheless, is that for a country like Zambia where inmates are infecting each other with various communicable diseases because of massive congestion in prisons, how is it sensible to jail a minor offender when they can be reprimanded with a fine. How can a judge see it fair to convict a citizen for lying to a police officer when police officers confess to telling lies in court during prosecutions and they get away with an apology?

This is what happened in the prosecution of Hakainde Hichilema Vs the people, where he was accused of insulting a police officer at his residence in April 2017. A senior arresting officer called Mbita Mpanzi pleaded guilty to telling lies in the face of the court, in a very serious case that would have led to the conviction of a leading opposition leader. Did Magistrate Greenwell Malumani send him to jail?

So, when Magistrate David Simusamba says he jailed Pastor Mumba in order to reform him and to deter other would-be offenders, does he expect that Zambians will now stop telling lies? What a joke! Anyway, like Nawakwi said, instead of wasting time on such misdemeanours, our courts should be preoccupied with hearing the crimes that were committed prior and during the 2016 general elections.

Yes, Pastor Nevers Mumba may be guilty for telling a lie. But he is guilty before his God, not in the eyes of a State that survives on lies. If the MMD leader deserves to be in jail for giving false information to one public officer, then the ZNBC news editor must join him in prison for feeding the entire republic with misinformation through their news bulletins.