WE ARE glad that President Edgar Lungu met the Catholic bishops led by Telesphore Mpundu to begin the quest for dialogue between the head of State and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema.
Zambians are eager for this much-awaited dialogue to take place because they are tired of the never-ending politics, bickering and, to some extent, acts of criminality in the aftermath of last year’s general elections.
Although the responsibility of running affairs of the country rests with Government, it is the role of every citizen and other stakeholders to also discharge their functions in a manner that does not threaten peace – a key ingredient for economic development.
Since Zambia became a functional multi-party democracy decades ago, opposition political parties have been raised to the status of key stakeholders in the governance of the country.
This status does not in any way entail antagonising the ruling party or threatening the peace and security of the country but offering checks and balances in the governance system for the good of the country.
Such democratic credentials, in addition to the peace enjoyed since independence, have made Zambia the envy of the world.
It is, therefore, worrying that since the UPND lost last year’s election held under the most democratic and modern constitution, they have refused to recognise a legitimately elected President.
As a result, the world has been subjected to endless propaganda brazenly meant to tarnish the image of the country, portraying Zambia as a dictatorship when, in fact, not.
In Zambia, it is the first time an opposition political party has publicly refused to recognise a duly elected President.
When the UPND cried foul over what they alleged was a stolen election, they petitioned President Lungu’s victory in the Constitutional Court – yet another avenue in the new constitution meant to improve governance.
It is a documented fact that the opposition party’s legal team delayed to submit the evidence within the 14 days prescribed by the Constitution and the petition was thrown out.
However, the UPND were and have never been satisfied with the outcome of the Constitutional Court decision and declared they would never recognise President Lungu.
This pronouncement has seen their legislators walking out of Parliament on the two occasions President Lungu addressed the National Assembly.
The walk-out, which culminated into the suspension of 48 UPND law-makers, is not only unprecedented but unhealthy for democracy.
This and other events such as damage of public property were slowly making the country almost ungovernable.
The arrest of Mr Hichilema over a non-bailable offence is among the highlights of the aftermath of the 2016 elections and his sympathisers began painting the country a dictatorship in the eyes of the international community.
Such labels are unfair not only on the President but the country as a whole because they have the potential to scare away investors.
Zambia is currently one of the most preferred investment destinations in Africa because of the conducive environment.
Therefore, the gesture by President Lungu to allow the dialogue to start is in the best interest of the country and goes to show his unmatched humility.
The country is tired of shadow boxing between the ruling Patriotic Front and the UPND because it is a danger to democracy.
The nation now awaits to hear the outcome of the meeting between the bishops and Mr Hichilema to culminate into a tripartite meeting with the head of State.
President Lungu has done his part and the ball is now in Mr Hichilema’s court.