Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council (NGOCC) chairperson Sera Longwe says President Edgar Lungu and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema should commit themselves to national dialogue because the country needs healing from the post election differences of 2016.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka on Wednesday, Longwe observed that the happenings of the 2016 general elections continued to haunt the country in 2017 hence the need for dialogue.

“By and large, the happenings of the 2016 elections continued to haunt the country in 2017. The year was characterised by heightened tensions that were fuelled by the disputed 2016 election results. We urge the political leadership especially President [Edgar] Lungu and the UPND to recommit themselves to this dialogue. Going into 2018, the country needs healing and true reconciliation. Political players will need to engage and speak to each other with civility and in a language that is nurturing for nation building. Of paramount importance is the need for immediate reforms in Zambia’s electoral process. Left in its current form, the electoral process will forever remain a source of conflict after every election,” Longwe said.

“It is unfortunate that the year 2017 closed without any fundamental reforms to the 2016 amended Constitution. The manner that the 2016 constitution was amended through Parliament, in total disregard of the popular wish of Zambians for a national referendum, has created serious lacunas in our supreme law. It was our desire that in 2017, the ministry of justice should have provided a clear roadmap as to how the country should have dealt with the existing lacunas in the constitution. Some of the challenges the country faces today are largely as a result of the faulty constitution that ought to be the supreme law of our country. NGOCC therefore calls upon the minister of justice to prioritise the constitution making process in 2018.”

Longwe further said that the suspicious closure of The Post Newspaper and vindictiveness towards other private media by President Lungu’s administration would forever remain an indictment on the patriotic front government.

“A free press is critical to the development of any country especially in promoting the democratic dispensation. It is sad that in 2017, the government continued to muzzle the media especially the independent media. The suspicious closure of the post newspaper and vindictiveness towards other private media by President Lungu’s administration will forever remain an indictment on the patriotic front government,” she said.

She further warned the country to prepare for consequences of the poor distribution of inputs in the 2017/18 farming season.

“The distribution of farmer input support remained shambolic in 2017. the Ministry of Agriculture on this particular score underperformed and has put the country’s food security at risk. As a country we must therefore be prepared to face the consequences of the poor input distribution in the 2017/2018 farming season.