Editor's Comment

Hichilema has lost it

HICHILEMA

WHEN the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) inked an agreement to end violence on July 20, many peace-loving Zambians were elated.This, it was believed, was a landmark towards peace building and the beginning of better things to come.
It was particularly heartening to see the two political parties, who were known not to see eye-to-eye, sit on one table to pledge their commitment to ending violence.
UPND deputy youth chairman Munji Habeenzu signed the accord on behalf of his party while PF national youth and security chairman Stephen Kampyongo did so on behalf of the ruling party.
The agreement, which was brokered by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), was witnessed by, among others, UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka, spokesperson Charles Kakoma and, from the PF, Kelvin Sampa, the Kasama MP, and Sunday Chanda, the party’s media director.
Women chairpersons from the two parties Jean Kapata (PF) and Namakau Kabwiku were also party to the agreement.
The signing of the pact was much more assuring, that it came a month after President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema set a rare tone of peace and reconciliation at the funeral of veteran politician Daniel Munkombwe, where they shook hands and chatted.
During the signing of the peace pact, the political parties pledged to implement several measures in a bid to end violence.
“We, in the UPND, are committed to holding peaceful elections and embark on massive campaigns to end violence. We shall disarm our cadres and they shall no longer move with guns, pangas or any other offensive weapons.
“Our [UPND] youths shall not wear masks or military fatigues but will freely wear party T-shirts. We shall exercise high levels of tolerance and we shall refrain from hate speech and focus on issue-based campaigns,” Mr Habeenzu said.
Mr Kampyongo also assured the opposition and nation as a whole of the ruling party’s commitment to uphold the resolutions of the peace pact.
What was even more assuring is that the two political parties did not just end at signing the pact, but went on to exchange visits at their secretariats, a rare occurrence on Zambia’s political scene, which has been dented with violence.
Given the turn of events, we, like many Zambians, were convinced that our politics had entered a new era of peace and tolerance.
We were relieved that at last our politicians have found common ground to coexist.
We are, however, disturbed and taken aback by Mr Hichilema’s announcement that he has rejected the peace pact.
The opposition leader claims that his youths were duped into signing a peace pact by the PF.
“My youths did not know what they were doing. I have since guided them on what should be done and that there will be no more peace pacts with the PF,” Mr Hichilema said.
Mr Hichilema said as a result of the peace accord signed by the youths, UPND members are now fighting, saying the agreement only benefitted the PF.
He said the peace accord was meant to show that the UPND is working with the PF in the governance of the country.
“This peace accord should not make you believe that we are working with the PF. We are not. The UPND will not sign any peace accord with the PF and when you are attacked, defend yourselves,” Mr Hichilema said.
We believed that the UPND youths had his blessings in signing the pact. But now that he has come out strongly against the peace pact – a great and progressive initiative to end violence – we withdraw the benefit of doubt we had given him.
He says the youths are wrong. No, it is him who is wrong. These youths are the ones who are usually thrown in the frontline of violence and they are the ones who get hurt. Why should he now say defend yourselves when there is virtually nothing to defend one against?
Looking at the benefits of the pact’s resolutions not only to the political parties but to the country as a whole, we are shocked that a leader who claims to have a heart to serve the people can dismiss them with absolute contempt.
What Mr Hichilema does not realise is that he is exposing his narrow interest and desperation to ascend to power.
It is hoped that his party, especially those who signed the pact, will see Mr Hichilema for who he is – a Mr know-it-all with an agenda that is self-centred.

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