Editor's Comment

Keep dialogue alive

HH, Lungu (right)

WHEN President Edgar Lungu and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema met on November 12 as part of efforts to hold national dialogue being spearheaded by the Church, there was renewed hope for political harmony in diversity.
This is so because at the meeting, the two leaders expressed unconditional support to an inclusive and Church-led national dialogue and reconciliation process.
President Lungu has stated that he and the governing party, the Patriotic Front, are ready for the talks for the good of the country.
Mr Hichilema, too, said then that his meeting with President Lungu would lead to more dialogue among various stakeholders in the governance system.
It is expected that with the two leaders committed to a conversation, the country is going to put politics aside and find common ground on which the country can be served despite diverse political persuasions.
That the second meeting which was billed for yesterday failed is, therefore, a matter of concern.
There seems to be a communication breakdown between the three church mother bodies, the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) and the participating parties.
While ZCID stated that yesterday’s meeting had been postponed, a press statement from three church mother bodies insisted the meeting is on.
This state of affairs has taken the nation aback because there seems to be a tug-of-war between the three church mother bodies and ZCID.
Notably of concern, too, is that the church mother bodies seem to have invited the main players, including the main stakeholder President Lungu, through the media.
Without official communication, the President has been unable to respond to a verbal invitation and he has since travelled to the Copperbelt for an earlier scheduled engagement.
The country has eagerly been waiting for these talks to come and pass.
What has happened is a wake-up call for the conveners of the meeting to put their house in order and formalise invitations.
Apart from inviting the political players formally, there should have been meetings prior to the event so that all of them would have been on the same page. If these meetings were indeed held, the discussions have failed to meet a basic expectation.
As important as these talks are, it is important that certain formalities are followed to ensure a smooth flow of action plans. These formalities include formal invitations which could, or should, include the agenda.
Surely, how does one expect the Head of State to step out of his office or cancel other appointments to take an invitation received through the grapevine.
This is not to say that prior appointments cannot be cancelled. They can, especially if an emergency arises which calls for the immediate attention of the President.
Again, this does not mean that the planned dialogue is not important, but it is certainly not a sudden event. Tasks were allocated in fairly good time and these should have been carried out as smoothly as would be expected by all stakeholders.
With this in mind, let the conveners get back to the drawing board and set out a plan that will get the stakeholders at the same table, especially the key players.
Fortunately, there must be a lot of ground already covered in preparing for these discussions and so what has to be done at the drawing board should not take long.
More importantly, the stakeholders have to be informed about the meeting using the correct procedure.
This is a situation that could, or should, have been avoided, especially that many Zambians are keen on seeing the nation’s politicians resolve whatever concerns they want to table.
It is important, too, that the ZCID and the church mother bodies resolve their defined mandates.
We hope this episode will not derail progress and we are certain that the Church, as was the case in the past, will smoothen the path to genuine dialogue and amicable solutions.

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