IT is time to talk and engage, don’t use layers of people around you as an excuse, Fr Emmanuel Chikoya advises President Edgar Lungu and opposition leaders.
Fr Chikoya says with mutual engagements between political leaders, muscles are not flexed and cadres don’t take to pangas and guns.
On Wednesday finance minister Bwalya Ng’andu, Richard Musukwa (mines), Joyce Nonde-Simukoko (labour) and Copperbelt minister Japhen Mwakalombe consulted opposition NDC president Chishimba Kambwili on issues pertaining to Mopani Copper Mines at Garden Cort Hotel in Kitwe.
In an interview, Fr Chikoya who is Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary said such should be replicated by President Lungu and his political opponents.
“Presidents should be on talking terms, there is no need to have hostility where people cannot seat on the same table and share a cup of tea. We need to break that culture. There must be room for them to quickly call each other and engage without so much red tape and protocol,” he said. “They have the power to break all those bureaucratic processes around them. Just make that surprise call or visit, but of course the other way round (an opposition leader making a surprise call or visit on President Lungu) is not possible, but it is very possible for the President of Zambia, it is doable. The clear advice will be, it’s time to talk. It’s time to engage, let’s not use the excuse of the layers of people around us – by these people presidents are surrounded with. By people who sometimes are not interested in problems being resolved. They want problems to be there so that they feel usable to the presidents of each political party.”
Fr Chikoya said political leaders must begin to play above those layers and make independent decisions.
“That is where leadership is seen, where you are able to get all kinds of advice but say, ‘sorry, that is not the right way, we are going this direction’,” he said.
Fr Chikoya advanced his advice by giving the example of Jesus telling his disciples that he was going into Jerusalem to die.
“Peter said ‘no Father you can’t die we will defend you’, but Jesus tells him; ‘Get behind me Satan.’ Peter was in the inner circle but he was told off because he was against the agenda of Jesus. Ultimately the agenda that God wants to be done under this leadership will be done. So leaders must wake up and make those connections and linkages by even breaking the normal culture because they want the best for this country,” Fr Chikoya said.
Asked if this can lead to an end of political violence, Fr Chikoya said it was sad that there were some people surrounding political leaders who don’t want dialogue and engagements between President Lungu and opposition leaders for selfish reasons.
“When people begin to talk there is no room for muscles, there is no room for pangas, no room for arming cadres with guns, there is no room for that. That is why unfortunately some people want the status quo to remain. It is like I have a toothache and a dentist extracts it, that problem has been solved. But we have people who want to manage that problem, so just as 1 Chronicles 12-13 it tells us of the men of…who understood times. They were people who knew what needed to be done and when it was to be done,” he said. “So every leader needs such people. We need to know if it is a season for fighting or it is for bringing our collective expertise, our collective potential for the good of our country. I think now more than ever we need this type of leadership. For some however, there may be need for them to fall along the way, we need a leadership that sees a bigger picture.”
Fr Chikoya said a good example was in South Africa where opposition leader Julius Malema and President Cyril Ramaphosa shared the podium to highlight the challenges of COVID-19.
He described the government’s invitation to Kambwili to look at the Mopani issues as a good development in that there was need to harness every potential and expertise available in the country to get the best from investments.
“That is highly recommended. It is the right way to go. Politics must be about engagements, exchange of ideas, critique positively and also engage to find a common solution to our challenges in our country. That is what one wishes would be happening every day,” said Fr Chikoya.