Veteran Politician Vernon Johnson Mwaanga says he is disappointed with SADC and the African Union for being absent during Hakainde Hichilema’s incarceration.

In a statement yesterday, VJ said their silence raised questions of relevance during difficult times.

“It would be amiss for me not to express my disappointment with SADC for having become part of the conspiracy of silence when Zambians needed to hear its voices. The African Union (AU) is equally guilty. The AU created a Department of Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, while SADC created the Organ for Politics, Defence and Security (also known as the TROIKA), with the active participation of Zambia. The two institutions were supposed to monitor possible areas of conflict in member states and apply preventive diplomacy through mediation dialogue. This was visibly absent during Zambia’s time of need and this is a serious indictment against both SADC and the African Union. This is unlike the proactive approach of organization such as ECOWAS and raises serious questions of relevance to the people during difficult times,” VJ said.

“It had to take a post colonial organization in the name of the Commonwealth to play a mediation role, after the ground work which was laid by the catholic bishops. In any meaningful dialogue, there must be a spirit of give and take or what is also known as quid pro quo. It is my hope and prayer that both sides will embrace this spirit today, tomorrow and always.”

He however thanked all individuals and organizations which showed courage and commitment to fostering unity.

“Now that UPND President Mr. Hakainde Hichilema has been released from detention, I would like to pay tribute to his wife Mutinta and their children for remaining strong and enduring during his absence. May I also pay tribute to HH for his resilience and strength during his painful incarceration, which lasted 126 days in very filthy prison conditions at Chimbokaila and Mukobeko Maximum Prisons. Let me also pay glowing tribute to the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, the Commonwealth Secretary General for brokering dialogue between Mr Hakainde Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu. The role played by former Nigerian Head of State General Olesegun Obasanjo should not be under estimated. It is an open secret that President Lungu faced many dissenting voices in his own party PF, who would have preferred the stalemate to continue. He also deserves my tribute and respect for putting the bigger interest of our country first. Tribute must also go to the UPND Leadership, general membership and their Alliance Partners locally and abroad, traditional leaders for the unflinching support rendered to HH and his 5 co-accused during this difficult ordeal. The role played by the catholic bishops led by Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu deserves high commendation. They laid down the foundation for what subsequently happened,” VJ said.

“The Commonwealth Secretary General moved swiftly to appoint a seasoned Nigerian Scholar and accomplished diplomat Professors Ibrahim Gambari as her dialogue envoy for Zambia. It is important for meaningful dialogue to start immediately so that the momentum gained is not lost. Reforms of governance institutions and laws such as the police service, the electoral commission of Zambia, the judiciary and particularly the Constitution Court, the Public Order Act and its application, freedom of the media and even handed coverage of all political players before, during and after elections are critical in a democracy.”

He advised politicians not to treat themselves as enemies but mere competitors in a contest.

“Our Country has in the past been regarded as a beacon of peace, political tolerance , constitutionalism, good governance and equality before the law. It goes without saying that a lot of this shine evaporated in the recent past. We must now interrogate what has gone wrong and why and get together as Zambians to make our country great again by embracing our cherished national motto of ‘one Zambia, one nation’ which has served us well in the past. Admittedly a lot has been said and done by politicians and their supporters on both sides of the divide but we should now put all this behind us and move forward for the sake of mother Zambia. Politics has been described as the art of the possible, where nothing is impossible,” said VJ.

“There are no permanent friends or permanent enemies in politics, only permanent interests. Yesterday’s enemies become tomorrow’s friends and vice versa. Politics is a mere contest for power and contenders should not treat each other as enemies, but mere opponents in the contest. I look forward to a day when our political leaders will be able to dine together as members of one happy family. I also look forward to a day when Zambians will be able to love one another and live in peace and harmony. Admittedly, peace always comes with justice and fair play.”