Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga has sent a message of goodwill to all Zambians as the country ushers in the New Year, praying that 2019 will be a better year with greater political and personal tolerance.

And Mwaanga has observed that there is need for collective, non-partisan and inclusive governance in Zambia, which will give all citizens a sense of belonging, regardless of where they come from or their political inclination.

Delivering his seasonal greetings in a statement, Mwaanga noted that political leaders were expected to have continuous dialogue to discuss issues affecting the country, explaining that political power was never permanent anywhere in the world.

“The year 2018 has been a year of mixed blessings. It has been a year of hopes, disappointments and even failures. On the hopeful side, we saw the Church mother bodies arrange and oversee an important meeting between President Edgar Lungu and Mr Hakainde Hichilema, president of UPND, where the two leaders held an open discussion and called each other brothers – which is what it should be. They also agreed, among other issues, that inclusive political dialogue should start immediately, to address the many national issues facing our great country. Surprisingly, this was the first meaningful meeting between the two leaders, who had previously been talking at each other through the media and other forums rather than talking to each other,” Mwaanga stated.

“We fought hard and sacrificed a lot to bring about a democratic dispensation in Zambia in 1990. Democracy demands many things from all political leaders, just like it also demands many things from ordinary citizens. In a democracy, political leaders are expected to have continuous dialogue to discuss problems and issues affecting the country. History all over the world has shown that political power is never permanent, and that is why we have our sixth President since Independence in October, 1964. At the funeral of Mr Daniel Munkombwe in Choma, the two leaders shook hands, much to the delight of those who were present. This response from the citizenry clearly showed that this is what they wanted to see from their leaders. The Church mother bodies should not waste the momentum gained and should make sure that this inclusive dialogue starts immediately before too much water goes under the bridge. Our political leaders should not treat each other as enemies, but mere opponents, who are involved in a legitimate and robust contest for political power, which is healthy and expected in any democratic society.”

Mwaanga also sympathised with Zambians and commended them for their patience in light of increasing tax burdens.

“It is clear that our economy is not doing well and GDP growth has been low compared to where it was prior to 2011. Some of the reasons are external, but some have to do with the manner in which we have mismanaged the economy, accumulated debt and inability to reach agreements with the Bretton Woods Institutions on new economic packages intended to stimulate the economy. Part of the problem in reaching agreements with these institutions has largely been on account of mushrooming external debt and debt servicing capacity. We should not treat these issues as partisan, but national, which must concern all of us. They should be addressed in a non-partisan manner and I would like to see a more consultative and inclusive approach. I commend our citizens for their patience in the light of increasing tax burdens, which have resulted in ever-increasing costs of public and private transport costs, domestic energy, the high price of petroleum products and the ever-escalating cost of living, making survival for our people unbearable,” he stated.

Mwaanga hoped and prayed that 2019 would be a better year for Zambians.

“I pray and hope that 2019 will be a better year where we shall see greater political and personal tolerance. There is need for a collective, non-partisan and inclusive governance, which will give all Zambians a sense of belonging for all, regardless of where they come from or what they believe in politically. This will rekindle the spirit and national motto of: ‘One Zambia, One Nation’, which the founding fathers put in place and which served our country well. I would also like to see the public media liberated from the yoke of whatever political party is in power and operate like the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) – a public broadcaster – which is independent and impartial. I would also like to see the Zambia Police Service operate in an impartial manner, where they will treat all political offenders equally,” stated Mwaanga.

“The Public Order Act, although amended in 1996 – is still being misapplied and has become an enemy of our democracy. It must be amended further to remove all powers of misinterpretation. Let us all develop a new spirit of loving one another as Zambians regardless of where we come from and recommit and rededicate ourselves to building a more peaceful, prosperous and caring country where corruption will be treated as a evil, so that prosperity can become the preserve of many and not just a few. We all have a duty to make our beloved country great again.”