It’s very clear that the Patriotic Front leadership is not interested in any dialogue that may end in levelling the political play field.
And that is what this dialogue lead by the Church is about. To be meaningful this dialogue has to address the public order Act and its administration. It also has to deal with the electoral processes and the independence of the entire judicial system.
And reasonable changes in these matters will help remove the main causes of political dissension in our country.
It’s therefore very difficult to understand why anyone who is interested in peace and stability in Zambia can be opposed to this dialogue being led by the Church.
But one would not be thinking and acting wisely by failing to recognise the fact that the current order or rather disorder benefits the Patriotic Front. The leadership of the Patriotic Front profits from the public order Act and the way it is being administered. The public order Act does not affect the Patriotic Front leaders, cadres and supporters. These can assemble and hold meetings, protests or demonstrations with or without police permission. The police cannot deny them permits or stop their gatherings. The public order Act is today being used by the Patriotic Front and its government solely to curb political activities of the opposition and civil society organisations not under their control and direction.
The dialogue being led by Church will be of very little or no value if it doesn’t address the public order Act and its abuse. And the Patriotic Front leadership knows very well that the Church led dialogue has the public order Act firmly on its agenda. Without abusing the public order Act the Patriotic Front will have serious problems curtailing the political mobilisation work of the opposition. Currently the Patriotic Front sees its survival in tying the hands of the opposition with the public order Act rope and having an unfair contest.
The Church led dialogue is also about removing the cause of dissension over elections. And what does this entail? This calls for the holding of peaceful, free and fair elections. This will mean changes have to be made to the composition and character of the Electoral Commission of Zambia! Does the Patriotic Front leadership want that? It will mean that many changes will have to be made in the way elections are conducted in Zambia to level the political play field and ensure the holding of peaceful, free and fair elections whose results are accepted by both the losers and the winners. Does the Patriotic Front leadership want that?
It’s not easy to dispute that the Patriotic Front leadership is abusing the entire judicial system – the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission and other law enforcement agencies, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the courts at all levels – to fix political opponents and other dissenting citizens and shield their own members from prosecution and accountability. Would they want this changed?
The truth is that the Patriotic Front leaders want to maintain the status quo. And as such they are not interested in this dialogue that is likely to alter the balance of political forces.
This is why the Patriotic Front and their puppets in ZCID see the dialogue led by the Church as aiming at regime change. They see changes to the public order Act and its administration as something that will make them lose elections. Why? It is because they had been using it to limit the scope of the opposition’s political mobilisation work.
They also know that the Church led dialogue will result in a peaceful environment in which those with violent ways of doing politics will not know what to do. Patriotic Front leaders, cadres and supporters don’t know how to conduct politics devoid of violence, intimidation and blackmail. Without being able to manipulate the electoral process the Patriotic Front cannot win the 2021 elections. And they know it. As such they don’t want peaceful, free and fair elections which they will not be able to manipulate.
So what is in it for the Patriotic Front leadership in this Church led dialogue?
Whereas there’s so much for the nation as a whole, the opposition and all citizens of good will to benefit from this Church led dialogue, the selfish interests of the Patriotic Front leadership will not be served by it. And the leadership of this Patriotic Front government has never put national interest above its political expediency. So it is naive to expect them to come to such dialogue with an open mind and sincerity.