Is it Possible to Rule Zambia by the Ten Commandments?

JUST when Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata became president of Zambia in 2011, he made a pronouncement that he was going to rule the nation by the Ten Commandments. We all believe he meant the same Decalogue that, according to the Bible, the almighty God used to govern the nation of Israel following the Exodus.

Prior to the departure from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites – also known as the Hebrews and later on as the Jews – were likely governed by laws bequeathed to them through their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the Ten Commandments came later as a code written with God’s own hand and given to them through their mediator Prophet Moses at Mount Sinai.

This is the code that Mr. Sata promised to use to rule the Zambian people. It is not yet known whether it will replace the current laws or they will be used side-by-side. If he can manage to make all the citizens obey the code in its entirety and of their own accord, he will have achieved what the prophet failed to achieve some 3500 years ago.

Moses had a tough time shepherding the Israelites in one direction even though they all belonged to one religion, and worshipping in the same manner. It wouldn’t be any easier for the Zambian leadership. With the diverse forms of worship, it is not possible to coerce the Zambians to obey edicts that are not at their hearts. However, if the code is adopted by the powers that be, then this peaceful nation will be ruled, at most, by nine commandments out of the Decalogue.

The critical impediment will be on the forth commandment. This is how it is recorded at Exodus 20:8-11 in the King James Version of the Holy writings – the Bible, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gate: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

Simple as it may have sounded to the Israelites, this commandment carried with it fatal upshots if breached. If an individual failed to keep the Sabbath, Exodus 31:14, 15 emphatically puts it thus, “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” The same penalty was repeated at Exodus 35:2 indicating that it was nonnegotiable.

To prove the seriousness of that commandment, the book of Numbers 15:32-36 tells of a man who was stoned to death by the entire congregation for gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. That was in the case of an individual Israelite.

In the case of the whole nation failing to keep the Sabbath, the consequence was a blanket cut-off from God’s blessings and protection. And indeed when they did not honor the Sabbath, the almighty God abandoned them and they were massacred by their enemies and their land was laid desolate for seventy years.

This is what is involved in ruling by the Ten Commandments which the republican president intends to use to govern his nation which flourishes with numerous religions. But the biggest questions are: how many Zambians will accept to remember the Sabbath-day and keep it holy? In this biting economy where everyone is rushing to make ends meet, will the ‘sacred’ street vendor take leave on Saturday and go to worship? Who will monitor the interiors of our homes to make sure no one is cooking?

Imagine all hotels closed off on Saturday and all the staff and guests streaming to church. You want to make a phone call but there is no network because the communication service providers are not working. As you are driving to church you have a tyre puncture and you can’t change it as that will be considered work for which you can be put to death.

If the big man is serious about it, he must be ready to endorse the countless death warrants that will crowd his desk. The only people that may remain freely treading the spacious Zambia soil are the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA). At the moment they are the only people known to observe the weekly Sabbath in Zambia.

Mr Sata himself, being a member of the Roman Catholic Church where they freely work on Saturday, is actually putting his own neck on the guillotine. Unless he is planning to shift camp, very soon he will be signing his own death warrant for breaking God’s law.

Since the majority of the Zambians (including many of the nominal Adventists) do not observe the Sabbath, it will be impossible to impose on them a system of rulership that will imperil their lives. Surely no one will accept the fourth commandment, not even the staunch SDAs themselves as they know how fatal it can be to fail to honor it.

So if Mr Sata really wants to rule his people by the Decalogue, he needs to consider the pros and cons of provoking that divine code. If its objective on the ancient nation of Israel is examined from all sides, probably the Ten Commandments are not the best set of laws for ruling modern Zambia. It just won’t work out in this age.

That leaves us with nine out of the ten. Still, some of the remainder may also snag the smooth governance of the nation.