Editor's Comment

Impeachment, dialogue cannot go together

WHEN Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland announced in August last year that President Edgar Lungu and United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema had finally agreed to dialogue on the political situation in the country, we, like many Zambians, were elated.
We were particularly happy that two major political parties will now come together in a manner that is not only civilised but fosters mutual respect.
We know that until then, getting the two parties to the same table seemed to be a tall order.
This is mainly because the opposition adamantly refused to recognise the legitimacy of President Lungu, which the ruling party felt and, justifiably so, annulled the basis for talks.
And now that the basis for dialogue has been set, UPND is jumping the gun and calling for the impeachment of President Lungu on flimsy grounds.
Notwithstanding that opposition Members of Parliament are within their constitutional rights, we could not agree more with German Ambassador to Zambia Achim Burkart that the planned impeachment motion will defeat the spirit of national dialogue.
Mr Burkart rightly noted that an impeachment motion is confrontational and is likely to dampen the spirit of dialogue among political players.
“I would say political confrontation, when on the other hand there is political dialogue, should be the last option. Impeachment is such a drastic measure and should be the last option,” Mr Burkart said.
It is unreasonable to have stones in one hand and beckon for dialogue with the other.
Calling for an impeachment raises questions on the UPND’s commitment to the dialogue process.
While it may not be a legal issue, it certainly is a moral and logical issue – and very basic.
Why is UPND so much in a hurry and desperate to get to State House? Is it really about serving people or personal interests? In a democracy, you cannot force yourself to govern people. There was an election in 2016 and Zambians spoke in a loud voice. All local and international observers authenticated the outcome, isolating the UPND’s position.
What UPND is doing is not offering checks and balances but distracting those in power. If distraction is the intention, then it is likely to be an effort in futility.
President Lungu has a five-year mandate and has embarked on a path to fulfil his election pledges. It is only fair that he is given chance to deliver, especially by those who cannot offer him support.
Doing so is in the best interest of many Zambians who voted him into power in anticipation of a better life through economic development.
In the unlikely event that President Lungu fails to deliver because of distractions, it is the general citizenry that will bear the brunt.
For the sake of development and enriching the country’s democratic credentials, the nation should be debating issues that are beneficial to all or the vast majority of citizens.
This is much more so that the grounds on which the impeachment motion is based are impaired by emotions.
According to Article 108 of the Constitution, a President can only be impeached if he has violated a provision of this Constitution or other law; committed a crime under international law; or engaged in gross misconduct.
The President so far has not done anything to warrant his impeachment.
And as noted by Independent Sioma Member of Parliament (MP) Mbololwa Subulwa, the impeachment plan by the UPND has no grounds to warrant any form of support.
We, therefore, do not expect legislators to support this distraction.

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