Sat 16 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT
Chief Madzimawe of the Ngoni people of Chipata has raised concern about the widening gap between the rich and poor and the need to foster tangible development to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
Madzimawe says his main preoccupation is to see development. We also know that this is the main preoccupation of this government. And this being the case, there is greater scope and need for co-operation between the government and the traditional authorities.
Moving our people out of poverty is not going to be an easy thing which the government on its own can solve. And as we have stated before, not even the best government in the world, the best ministers, the best president can achieve much on their own. It would also be wrong to expect a general remedy from them only. We are all required to make a contribution. And moreover, democracy includes participation and therefore responsibility from all of us. If we realise this, the hope of a future without abject poverty will return to our hearts.
Today's traditional leadership should be about the search for a better life for our people. And we must build a wise and committed leadership at all levels of our society, including at the traditional level, that can help us move the great majority of our people who are today wallowing in abject poverty out of it. We must do it together. The traditional authorities should work and co-operate with the government in their effort to narrow the poverty gap. They need to work together because this can only be done together.
The painful truth is that, despite the goals to eradicate it, poverty persists and tends to grow in our country. But stopping and reversing it is today, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most decisive contribution that can be made to the betterment of the lives of our people and to defending and promoting their dignity and humanity.
The existence of so many poor people in our country constitutes an affront to all of us. A permanent solution must be found for this serious problem. Our leaders, our chiefs cannot remain indifferent in the face of the tremendous social injustices existing in our country today, which keep the majority of their subjects in dismal poverty, which in many cases becomes inhuman wretchedness.
Poverty is an evil thing that should not be tolerated. Poverty should be fought as tenaciously as we fight other evils. Poverty, as a lack of the goods of this world necessary to live worthily as human beings, is in itself evil. The prophets denounce it as contrary to the will of the Lord and most of the time as a fruit of human injustice and sin.
This poverty places before our traditional rulers and other leaders a challenge that they cannot side step and to which they must respond with a speed and boldness adequate to the urgency of the times.
And we shouldn't forget that Christ, our Saviour, not only loved the poor, but rather "being rich he became poor," he lived in poverty. His mission centered on advising the poor of their liberation and he founded his church as a sign of that poverty among men and women.
The poverty of so many brothers and sisters cries out for justice, solidarity, open weakness, commitment, strength and exertion directed to the fulfillment of the redeeming mission to which it is committed by Christ.
The present situation in our country, then, demands from our traditional authorities and other leaders the spirit of poverty which stimulates them to order organically the power and the finances in favour of the poor and the common good. We ought to sharpen the awareness of our solidarity with the poor, to which charity leads us.
This solidarity means we make ours their problems and struggles, that we know how to speak with them. This has to be concretised in criticism of injustice and denunciation of corruption, in the struggle against the intolerable situation that a poor person often has to tolerate, in the willingness to dialogue with groups responsible for that situation in order to make them understand their obligations.
In this regard, those like Michael Sata who have openly devoted themselves and their work to the self-denying apostolate with the poor deserve our support and encouragement. And they deserve to be defended from the parties interested in distorting their work.
Human advancement has to be the goal of the actions of all our leaders, traditional and otherwise, on behalf of the poor. There has to be an option for the poor. Since, in practice, the common good is not sufficiently highly cherished, and since too many people fail to live in solidarity with the community, it is inevitable that there are those who suffer out of these failures. These are the poor, those living on the margins of the community, those whose interests have been neglected or ignored. As such, they are especially entitled to solidarity, to the special commitment of the rest of the community to remedy the situation in which they find themselves. It is this special commitment that is often called "preferential treatment of the poor". In practical terms, it means that our economic actions and decisions must not only avoid harming the interests of the poor, but must actually contribute to their upliftment. For this reason, economic efficiency is not the primary consideration; the poor must be given privileged treatment, even at the cost of some measure of technical inefficiency. The option for the poor can be exercised not only in favour of the materially poor, about whom we are mainly concerned here, but also towards those who have been marginalised because of disability, gender, race, or for whatever reason. Indeed, such classes of people often tend to be materially poor as well, as a direct result of being marginalised.
Of course, the option for the poor is not an option against the rich.
As we have stated before, we are bound together and what serves the interests of the common good also serves our interests and individuals. Therefore, the option for the poor is a call to the rich to participate in the upliftment of the poor and reduce the widening gap between the rich and the poor to the benefit of the whole society.
And when we speak of "the economy", or "an economic system", we are speaking of the policies and plans which control the wealth and resources of a country, about how resources are distributed between people, and about how the means of production - such as land, factories and technology - are owned and controlled. It is also sometimes suggested that economic laws, like the basic laws of nature, are beyond human control; that we can no more influence them than we can defy gravity or stop the motion of the planets. Therefore, it is argued, the existence of poverty and inequitable distribution of wealth, are the result of inescapable economic laws, and must be accepted as such. When suffering and even death flow from these "inevitable facts of economic life," that is simply unfortunate, it is said, just as it is unfortunate when suffering and death result from a natural disaster.
Although we sympathise with the victims of an earthquake or a flood, we do not consider such natural occurrences unjust or immoral. In the same way, the argument continues. We should not regard an economic system as unjust or immoral, though we regret the suffering that may be part of such system. Some people will be poor and some rich, inevitably and unavoidably, just as some will be the victims of earthquakes and floods, and some will not.
This argument, this type of reasoning must be rejected. It fails to take into account the fact that economic consequences come about as a result of human urgency. At the heart of every economic system lies human needs, human abilities and human decisions, and it is the choices which we make in addressing those needs, sharing those abilities, and making those decisions, that determine the justice or injustice of a economic system. There is thus a moral quality about an economy, a quality which has its roots in the morally correct or incorrect choices by people; and it is the moral quality of the economy that enables us to make choices about whether or not it is a just economy.
It is therefore very important for our chiefs and other leaders who want to see their people out of poverty to pay attention to the decisions and actions being taken by the government. If a decision or an action is taken that disadvantages the poor, they must speak out without respite. And if a decision or an action is taken that defends or promotes the interests of the poor, that needs to be supported and defended openly and without respite. Corruption and other abuses of power disadvantage the poor and deserve to be fought without respite by the defenders and supporters of the poor. We would therefore like to see a day when Madzimawe and other chiefs join, without reservations, the fight against corruption and other abuses. And a government that fights corruption deserves their support.