VJ urges inclusion of elderly statesmen to the dialogue process

VETERAN politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says dialogue is a very complex process which requires a few level heads, seriousness and focus on the important issues which make it essential.

And Mwaanga says elderly statesmen should be invited to the dialogue meeting to help where need be.

Mwaanga says it is almost scandalous that political leaders don’t talk to each other but have opted to do so through the media.

He has since offered to assist in the dialogue process if invited, saying he has the experience having led mediation processes in a number of African countries.

In an interview, Mwaanga said after the MMD won the elections in 1991, he went to President Frederick Chiluba to convince him on the need for the then ruling party to engage other political parties in dialogue which ultimately led to the creation of the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID).

“I haven’t been invited for sure because I would have known about it by now, but dialogue is fairly a complex process and it requires a few level heads. It requires seriousness and focus on the important issues which make dialogue essential,” he said. “If you take a look at what we did in the MMD after winning the elections overwhelmingly in 1991, I went to president Chiluba and suggested that we should have dialogue with other opposition parties and three months after winning the elections we called a meeting with the other opposition parties and we met at State House.”

Mwaanga indicated that some of the contentious issues that were agreed on were then passed on to different ministries for implementation.

He said it was also agreed that dialogue should be a regular thing and “we used to hold discussions on a regular basis among political parties at the level of the secretary general until we got to a level where we initiated, as MMD, the formation of the ZCID now with the help of the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.”

“So it is a complex issue and I think it needs to be handled carefully because at the end of it all we want to see our political leaders talking to each other, which they have not been doing since 2011,” Mwaanga said. “Until the recent meeting which was held between President Edgar Lungu and the president of the UPND Mr Hakainde Hichilema, there has been no discussions among our political leaders. That is almost scandalous to know that political leaders don’t talk to each other. They want to talk at each other through the media, that is not the way to conduct dialogue.”

Mwaanga suggested that even as the dialogue process goes on, the church was in a better position to lead the process while the ZCID could provide secretarial services or there could be a joint secretariat with the church.

Asked if he would be available if and when invited to be part of the dialogue process, Mwaanga responded in the affirmative.

“If asked, if I would be available, this is my country…after all I have been involved in mediation in a number of African countries,” he said. “I have led mediations in a number of African countries and why would I not respond favourably to get involved in mediation in my own country which I fought for in terms of fighting for independence? This is my own country and I believe that my country should be seen to be doing the right thing.”

Mwaanga said there was need to invite a few elderly statesmen to be able to sit in the dialogue process and follow the proceedings so that they could help where “help may be needed.”

“But this doesn’t seem to be done and as misfortune would have it, we now have the new politicians nearly in all the political parties who don’t seem to have the institutional memory or institutional experience of what happened before and this is something I think they ought to consider,” he said. “It would help the participants. It would also help the church mother bodies. It would also help ZCID to a very great extent.”

Mwaanga indicated that he did not know of any veteran politician who might have been invited adding that he himself had not been invited.

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