Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga has advised political party leaders to put their selfishness and pride aside so that they can sit behind closed doors to discuss national issues and collectively come up with answers.

And Mwaanga says dialogue is an indispensable ingredient for any country claiming to be a democracy which must always be initiated by those in power.

In a statement, Monday , Dr Mwaanga stated that Zambia’s declining economy was reason enough for politicians to sit together and dialogue.

He noted that it was an open secret that that government embarked on a reckless borrowing spree which had left the country highly indebted.

“It is common knowledge that the world economic growth forecast for 2019 by both the World Bank and the IMF has been downgraded, just like ours. That is even the more reason why our political leaders should put their selfish pride and petty differences aside and sit down behind closed doors to discuss national issues and collectively come up with answers. They should put the country first and not their self serving false pride. They should bear in mind that the tragedy of personal pride and arrogance of power has led to unimaginable disasters for many countries. Zambians are not interested in their self serving differences. They want solutions to their problems. Those who don’t learn from the past, become blind to the future,” Dr Mwaanga stated.

“It is an open secret that government embarked on a reckless external borrowing spree which has left our country highly indebted. One just has to look at the bloated national budget presented to Parliament by the new Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu last friday, to see how much of our national resources in 2019, will be dedicated towards repaying the national debt both domestic and external. When government is forced to reduce expenditure on education, health, FISP which has been the mainstay of our food security and increase expenditure for defence and security, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that our country is in serious trouble. We fought for independence, because we wanted to improve the Democratic freedoms, political, economic and social well-being of our people and I mean all the people. Political leadership is about service to the people. It is not about service to self.”

And Mwaanga stated that dialogue was an indispensable ingredient for any country that claimed to be a democracy.

He recalled that in the past, the ruling party worked with opposition political parties to come up with workable national solutions.

“In any country claiming to be a democracy, dialogue is an indispensable ingredient for problem solving and peace. This dialogue must always be initiated by those in power, as used to be the case when Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) was in power. We recognized at the time, that although we had won the general elections overwhelmingly, capturing 125 Parliamentary seats out of 150, with our Presidential candidate receiving just a little over 74% of the total valid votes cast -it was critically important to practice politics of inclusion. By meeting with leaders of opposition political parties regularly, to listen to their concerns and suggestions on how some of our national problems could be solved,” Dr Mwaanga stated.

“We inherited many problems of national debt, lack of economic growth, non performing mining sector which had been nationalized, shortages of essential commodities such as bread, mealie meal, bath and washing soap, cooking oil, soft drinks, non performing public transport system and many other things. Through this process of dialogue with other opposition political parties, we slowly began to come up with workable national solutions, which enabled us turn round the economy, end shortages of essential commodities, private the mines, put operations of the state owned United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ) on a slow death path to allow private operators generous space to take over its functions. We even allowed individuals and companies the latitude to import minibuses and big buses duty free for a certain period of time.”

Mwaanga stated that winning elections alone was not sufficient to bring about a well-functioning society.

“We (MMD) could have made these decisions on our own, because we had been given an overwhelming mandate by the people of Zambia, but we fully understood, recognized and accepted that in a democracy, winning elections alone, be they free and fair or disputed, was not sufficient to bring about a well functioning society. Zambia is for all Zambians regardless of where they come from and regardless of their political affiliation. They have a collective duty to participate in national problem solving. They should be free to harness their diverse knowledge and expertise to contribute towards solving national problems,” Dr Mwaanga recalled.

Dr Mwaanga lamented that his call for political leaders to dialogue had fallen on deaf ears.

“I have on times without number, advocated for national political dialogue among our political leaders, to seriously address the many problems facing our country and come up with viable solutions. My passionate appeals to political leaders appear to be falling on deaf ears, something I find totally reprehensible. My appeals for dialogue are based on experience gained from our past experience and history lessons learnt from other parts of Africa and the world, where I have been involved in peace building for more than five decades. In West Africa, there is a proverb which says that “what an old man can see sitting down, a young man cannot see even if he climbs a tree”. The moral of the proverb simply put, is that the young politicians of the current generation, must pay attention to what the elders are saying, because they know how national problems have been handled and even solved in the past,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Mwaanga stated that the constitution of Zambia was not supposed to be a partisan document.

“…There are also well publicized fundamental differences over Bill No 10 concerning Constitutional Amendments, which should not be trivialized. Using tyranny of the majority in Parliament is not the best answer. The Constitution of Zambia is not supposed to be a partisan document. It requires a serious negotiated national consensus,” stated Dr Mwaanga.

“Let no minion tell me that these are not hard facts unless they are living in denial. They are not entitled to their own alternative facts. Great nations put political differences aside in times like this and tap into the collective wisdom and expertise of its citizens. Apart from anything else, dialogue, as past experience has shown, buys much needed peace for our country. It makes sick and I mean very sick when our new crop of politicians continues to talk at each other and not to each other. They even avoid talking to each other when they meet at diplomatic receptions. Maturity and seriousness are required at this time. History will judge the current crop of politicians harshly, if they don’t embrace national dialogue, which has served our country well in the past.”