NGOCC chairperson Sara Longwe says the dialogue process can only succeed if the Patriotic Front shows humility.
Last week, Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue board chairperson Nathan Mulonga renounced calls for the church to take over the dialogue process saying clergymen were also politically inclined and biased.
“Politicians have usually sat to resolve issues under the auspices of the Church but we also want to state that there should be room for political parties to resolve their own problems as political players. We have met under the Church before, just before the 2016 elections we met and discussed and assured the Church that we were not to engage into violence but did you see what happened? Right the opposite, so there is no guarantee that even when you meet under the Church then things will be okay. Yes we believe they can be able to sit us down but I want to be very clear, the Church and the Clergy are just like any other persons and we’ve heard in the past the accusations from within the Church. There was a difference within the EFZ, the ZCCB. So what guarantee do you have that they are not equally having difficulties in terms of being united around some of these issues? So really we believe that as Zambians together, the Church, the Civil Society and ZCID. Together if we put our heads together, we will be able to resolve the issues of this country,” said Mulonga.
But in an interview, Longwe backed calls for the church to take over the dialogue process and observed that being the party with an upper hand, it was necessary for the PF to be humble.
“I haven’t seen the Church being biased. I think people think the Church is biased because they themselves can’t let go. The Church speaks truthfully to say the problem is with both sides. And, obviously, in a situation like this and in the past, the onus to give an olive leaf was the ruling party and its president, who is also a national President. The ruling parties have always in the past, where have had dialogue, have always been humble. It is only when the ruling party if being humble and is putting the people before itself that we had successful dialogue,” Longwe noted.
“At the moment, we don’t see the olive leaf coming from the ruling party and that’s what the Churches are saying, they don’t see that. So, it’s not being biased, it’s always like that because even in a fight between young people, we always say, ‘you are the oldest, show humbleness and the young one will give you respect’. So, why should it change this time? The most aggrieved cannot humble down now, they have to maintain that this thing is unresolved.”
Longwe warned of tension if the dialogue process failed.
“The tension in Zambia won’t end if the dialogue talks are not held, and we might end up with a bigger tension, which will engulf the whole country in harm. So, we need to resolve this issue, we believe as NGOCC that dialogue is the best way to have differences ended, not just reacting,” she warned.
“We really need dialogue at the national level. Let’s just bury our personal interests, because that’s what it is. It’s the personal interest before the nation. The leadership is supposed to put the interests of the people first before their personal interests. But, unfortunately, this is a symbol that political leadership in Zambia is at the top then the interests of the nation are at the bottom. So, this is the problem we had as a nation and if having external people to help us resolve our differences is causing a lot of problems then let’s go back to the usual that works.”
And Longwe observed that recurring political violence was symptomatic of “angry citizens.”
“We have a by-election and there has been violence, all by-elections have been violent. This simply means that people are still angry; we haven’t come to terms of living side by side with each other with different opinions. That is what multi-party [democracy] is all about (to have different options). And that is how even voters make their choices of who to vote for, someone who makes a difference in their lives. So, if we don’t want external people in the dialogue, then let’s find our own alternative way of doing this. We have done this before, and we know that our families are going to continue being treated violently in whatever position they take and usually it is only after the violence that people come, and by that time, it would have been too late, someone would have died, someone would have been hurt,” lamented Longwe.
“You [who] has got the upper-hand have to be humble for the sake of the general wellbeing, not yourself, you are already in the ruling party, you have got nothing to lose. The ruling party will have nothing to lose if we have this dialogue done in whatever form that suits us. And what suits is home-grown methods. Let’s go back to it, let’s not start poking fingers at the people like the Church mother bodies because they have done their best deeds in past, and we have been happy with it and we have had that harmony, until now when this party came in as a ruling party.”