Southern Africa Center for Constructive Resolutions of Disputes (SACCORD) Executive Director Boniface Chembe says the handshake between President Edgar Lungu and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema at the burial of late Daniel Munkombwe last month is a sign that the dialogue process is achieving the desired results.

Speaking in an interview with News Diggers! Chembe also asked the church and the Zambia Center for Inter-party Dialogue to be continuously updating the nation on the progress made towards the national dialogue process, in order to build confidence among citizens.

“As SACCORD we want to commend and upload the Republican President Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu and opposition UPND president Mr Hakainde Hichilema among other opposition leaders to find it within themselves to handshake. Yes it was a funeral but to shake hands in front of the mourners and also before the nation and everyone who was there, was a good sign. We believe that with what they did, they may never know the extent to which they put smiles on many faces of Zambians through that handshake, and also they may never get to know how much happiness they brought about as a result of that handshake. To some, they may think that it was an easy gesture to do. When you have got a bitter rivalry among political contenders, it may not matter whether it’s a funeral or wedding and it is not automatic that they ought to handshake,” Chembe said.

“We believe that is was a right step in the right direction as far as the national dialogue process is concerned. We are also happy that there is some agreement among the Church and the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue in terms of agreeing on the modalities on how the national dialogue process will be rolled out. What is important now is that these two entities that have now agreed upon more or less by the stakeholders to mediate the dialogue process must ensure that they continuously keep updates to the nation so that no citizen is left behind.”

Chembe said political leaders needed to create other platforms other than funerals where they could shake hands.

“We hope that the careful planning which by now is suppose to be taking place in terms of the execution of the national dialogue process has also advanced. We believe that we have now reached an advanced stage in terms of ensuring that the national dialogue process rolls out. That handshake is a very important gesture that can never be under estimated in kick-starting this national dialogue process. What we also want to say as SACCORD is, yes in an much as funerals my provide a platform for such handshakes, we need to create other deliberate platforms that can bring these leaders together and handshake so that we don’t wait until people die and that is when we see leaders meet and handshake,” said Chembe.

“I think the biggest lesson [that cadres can draw] is that of humility. All of us have to humble ourselves and get to realise that Zambia is bigger than any political affiliation that we may have. And the issue is that these two leaders have been aggrieved about are not small issues. If they can go out of their way and handshake, we see no reason why political cadres and their followers should not do the same. So the biggest lesson is that let us be tolerant and have respect to one another in the face of diversity and let us always put the bigger interest of our country at heart and go out of our way to embrace one another and co-exist and ultimately ensure that peace prevails.”