‘God have mercy on currency’: Zambia holds national prayer day to hold Kwacha from record drop

Thousands of Zambians rally to pray against the depreciation of the country’s currency and economic crisis at the Show grounds in the capital city Lusaka on October 18, 2015 © Salim Dawood
Sunday saw a nationwide day of prayer in Zambia as president Edgar Lungu called for a divine intervention to save the African country’s currency, Kwacha, from a record drop.

All football matches in the country were called off, with bars and restaurants forbidden from accepting clients for most of the day on Sunday.

The president’s call for a national day of prayer and fasting gained a wide support from Zambia’s churches, which conducted prayers all across the country for the mostly Christian population of 15 million people.

The authorities turned to God after the country’s economy experienced a host of problems, which caused the national currency, the Kwacha, to plummet against the dollar by a record 45 percent in 2015.

Zambia’s main source of income, copper exports, suffered this year due to a global drop in commodity prices. While the lack of rain affected the output of hydropower plants, causing electricity cuts for up to 14 hours a day across the country.

“Anxiety and distress prevail throughout the land,” president Lungu said as he announced the day of prayer and fasting in September.

"I personally believe that since we humbled ourselves and cried out to God, the Lord has heard our cry," Lungu said in an address on Sunday. "I appeal to all of you to do your best and leave the rest to God."

Lungu was expected to participate in five-hour open-air prayer session together with top religious and political officials in the capital of Lusaka on Sunday.

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"God is a god of miracles and if we ask him, he will bless us and the kwacha shall be restored to its former strength and the prices of goods shall again go down," Bishop Simon Chihana, president of the International Fellowship of Christian Churches in Zambia, told AFP.

"Let's pray to God to have mercy on us. God has done that before and he can do it again," Chihana said. 

Earlier this week, Zambia's labor minister, Fackson Shamenda, explained to local newspaper The Post that the government is asking for God’s intervention because: "in our own wisdom, we have failed to do things.”

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However, not everyone in the country agrees that praying is the right solution for economic problems.

A major Zambian tribal leader, Chief Ntambu, has called Lungu and his government “idiots” and wondered “Is it God who caused those sufferings for you to go back to him and say, 'No you have done this and that and we want you to reverse your decision?”

Managing director at Sub-Saharan Consulting Group Zambia, Trevor Simumba, also urged the authorities to face reality instead of relying on higher power.

“No matter how many prayers you make it doesn’t change the fact that you have a fiscal deficit and you’re not doing anything to reduce that fiscal deficit. We know God can do miracles, but He cannot change things that are facts on the ground,” Simumba told Bloomberg.