Lungu and dialogue

The three church mother bodies say political leaders must give dialogue a chance.

Speaking at a joint press briefing, Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, Council of Churches in Zambia president Bishop Alfred Kalembo and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia chairperson Bishop Paul Mususu, said despite public pronouncements that Zambia was a peaceful country, the reality on the ground was different due to many acts of injustice, a growing culture of corruption, incidences of violence and utterances out of deep-seated hatred.

“It demands that all political party leaders declare and enforce zero tolerance to political violence and to bring culprits to book by handing them over to law enforcement institutions. It means that all political leaders must give the planned for ‘national dialogue’ a chance to succeed by committing themselves to dialogue without preconditions with a view to level the playing field. These leaders of political parties must restrain themselves and their members from making inflammatory or irresponsible statements…Lack of peace hurts everyone especially the weak, the elderly, the poor, women and children. It hurts us Christians because we are essentially brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ who identifies Himself with the same poor and the suffering. It is for this reason that we support and wish to contribute and make ourselves available for dialogue. In the Bible, peace means love, forgiveness, reconciliation, goodwill and good relationships between people. This is the good news meant for people of all races, pigmentation, religions, tribes, political affiliation and ideologies. This is the peace we wish for our nation Zambia. However, there can be no peace without justice at personal as well as at all levels of society,” read in part the statement by the three church mother bodies.

The concerns being raised by these church leaders cannot be ignored.

Last week, Edgar Lungu urged the church to give counsel to him and other politicians. That advice has been given. All await to see what he will do with it! Edgar’s unwillingness to have direct dialogue with Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND will just end up deepening the political tension and polarisation in the country. Neither the arrogant attitude nor denying reality can outlast this political and social reality.

There’s need for Edgar to stop pantomiming and speak clearly in regard to talks with Hakainde and the UPND because in politics, one offers solutions to the people, not throw them into the abyss.

Real political leadership means no cheating, no presuming and no accusing in vain to cover up other deficiencies. Without removing the cause of dissension, we’ll go into an abyss. Meaningful talks between Hakainde and Edgar will begin a process of unity in diversity that we dearly need. There’s need to talk and agree on the much-needed reforms to ensure free, fair, peaceful and credible elections in 2021 and in the parliamentary and local government by-elections that may come up before that. Lack of agreement or consensus on the electoral processes is one of the major causes of dissension in the nation that needs to be removed.

Whatever government or political leadership we come up with has to earn its legitimacy through a proper, free, fair and peaceful election. It must seek the people’s true and real mandate. We need talks between Hakainde and Edgar that can help us to break away from the past fraudulent elections and a political playing field that is not level. We urgently need talks that can genuinely help us to chart a new trajectory to a dispensation of clean politics that truly puts the country and its people first – one that respects political pluralism and the diversity of multiparty politics. We urgently need politics that appreciate the reality of political diversity.

These talks are needed to help the nation chart new direction and bring about unity in political pluralism and diversity.

There is need to realise and accept the reality that political pluralism and diversity in a multiparty political dispensation doesn’t in any way constitute enmity. Being the opposition doesn’t make one an enemy of the State who should be daily harassed by the police and permanently placed under the surveillance of the intelligence services. The opposition is just as patriotic as the governing group. And we shouldn’t forget that the ruling party was not very long ago in the opposition.

We hope talks between Hakainde and Edgar which will result in the opposition being seen as a partner and not an enemy of the State, of those in power.

Such talks can be built upon by all truly well-meaning Zambians to herald a new politics of engagement in our country.

Political pluralism and diversity must be celebrated, and the people must be allowed to express themselves through speech, rallies, protests, demonstrations and so on and so forth.

Edgar still has a lot of work to do to earn faith and trust of the opposition because of the poor conduct of elections or fraud, brutality, intolerance and cruelty. The onus is on Edgar to inspire hope and confidence in the nation. And genuine dialogue with Hakainde and the UPND will go a long way in helping him achieve this.

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