In matters of state or political relations, a smiling handshake speaks much louder than any written words, says veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga.

In a statement, the former chief government spokesperson said there was nothing new from President Edgar Lungu’s speech during the opening of the second session of the 12 National Assembly, but saluted the Head of State for extending a handshake to the opposition and his critics in the House.

“This is the kind of human relations Zambia needs at this time as we try to treat and heal wounds of deep divisions caused by divisive elections and a flawed judicial system which left bitterness and tension in our country. In matters of state or political relations, a smiling handshake speaks much louder than any written words,” Mwaanga said.

Our political leaders must learn the humility and efficacy of talking to each other and not at each other through the media. I would have preferred to see an African dialogue process at a higher level between President Lungu and the main opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, but the reality is that there was no credible or serious African peace initiative on the table.”

After addressing the National Assembly, President Lungu greeted members of his Cabinet on the right and went further to shake hands with the UPND members of parliament on the left who shunned his previous address. The Head of State also interacted with his former information minister who has turned the heat on the ruling party with a barrage of criticisms.

And VJ said it was unfortunate that the Commonwealth negotiated dialogue was painfully slow.

“The Commonwealth moved in and negotiated a dialogue process, which led to the release from prison of UPND President Hakainde Hichilema and is now being headed by a distinguished african diplomat Prof Ibrahim Gambari who has just completed his first round of talks and inclusive consultations. From what he is reported to have said, this process will be painfully slow and could only start in December, 2017,” he observed.

“There are a lot of urgent and pressing issues which require serious attention, such as police reforms; judicial reforms and reconstitution of the Constitutional Court; Reconstitution of the Electoral Commission and implementation of recommendations of the recommendations of the Electoral Reforms Technical Committee to make our electoral process more open and transparent; Further amendments to the Constitution to include additional special seats for women in the National Assembly and in local councils with a view to moving closer to gender equality; Giving autonomy to the National Assembly to elect its own presiding officers and not to rely on executive nominations.”

Meanwhile VJ urged political party leaders to avoid hate speech, adding that violence had no place in a democracy.

“Political leaders at all levels must refrain from making incendiary or hate speeches against others and leaders of all political parties must be seen to be punishing those who do so. The media, must also play its part by refraining from making inflammatory, irresponsible and insulting statements against other political leaders. The state print and electronic media which is owned by all taxpayers, must play an exemplary role by making sure that they don’t just give publicity to ruling party and government officials, but also to those in the opposition, so that all views are heard,” said VJ.

“The country must move to created conditions of zero tolerance to violence of whatever form and by whoever commits it and the police must be non partisan in dealing firmly with it. Violence has no place in a democratic society. There will always be differences of opinion on many issues, but these differences should not degenerate into violence or enmity. There will be irresponsible loud mouths in all parties, but these should be caged for the sake of building a just society for all Zambians. President Lungu and UPND leader have set the tone and their followers should now take a leaf.”