Editor's Comment

Guard against dialogue hijackers

CHIKWANDA

FORMER Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda is right in warning politicians against using national dialogue to advance selfish schemes of frustrating Government’s efforts to improve the lives of citizens.The impending national dialogue is necessary as it is a tool for healing tension in the country in the aftermath of the 2016 elections.
There are, however, some stakeholders who could be seeing this platform as an opportunity to score political points, rather than for finding a common ground for meeting the aspirations of all citizens.
Dialogue is a necessary tool for conflict resolution between rival political parties.
In Zambia’s case, dialogue should go beyond mending fences among political rival groups but should serve the broader public. In any case, the main purpose of political parties is to serve the people.
No player should go into dialogue with some ulterior motives by championing selfish interests in the hope of winning support. The goal should be to have a win-win outcome.
Through dialogue, the nation expects several outcomes beyond political differences by parties who may still feel aggrieved.
After all, dialogue should be initiated by players themselves who invite others to mediate.
The issue of who mediates seems to have been resolved with all key stakeholders agreeing that the Church is best-placed for this role.
A lot of time was spent on determining a neutral player for this responsibility and hopefully the process will be much faster from now on.
All stakeholders ought to be understood though that while the Church will be at the centre of the actual mediation, the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) is still in the picture as facilitators.
We hope distractors will not continue on the path of procrastination by demanding that the ZCID be side-lined. They have already started the process and are in touch with the Church to actualise the wishes of the stakeholders.
It is clear that some parties are not walking their talk. While on one hand they claim that they are game for dialogue, their actions suggest otherwise.
For instance, the major opposition political party, the United Party for National Development (UPND) has insisted that the ZCID has no capacity to lead the dialogue process in Zambia.
The UPND even shunned the ZCID-organised National Democracy Stakeholders Summit, a pre-dialogue process held last month in Lusaka.
The summit was designed to pave way for the national dialogue to be held soon.
The UPND, which had earlier insisted on the Commonwealth leading the process, has now agreed that the Church takes the mantle and that the ZCID be kept out of the picture.
This sounds like political scheming even before the stakeholders get to talking on the same table.
It is a pity that a lot of time is being invested in trying to facilitate the dialogue at the expense of other pressing national issues.
Zambia is in a hurry to develop and issues of the national dialogue should not stifle more pressing issues in the country.
The more people talk about dialogue, the more attention is turned away from other issues affecting the country.
Zambians want food on the table and services delivered.
They have personal and collective goals to actualise: farmers want to know the best markets for their produce; students are seeking scholarships and entrepreneurs seek capital to participate in the economic activities of the country.
While dialogue is inevitable, we should broaden the debate surrounding it beyond the wishes of one or a few political parties.
National interest should take precedence over self-interest.

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