POLITICAL analyst Dr Alex Ng’oma says Zambia must have national dialogue before the 2021 general elections to allow politicians resolve their differences and tame unruly cadres.

And Dr Ng’oma says sustained violence will lead to voter apathy if not dealt with ahead of next year’s general election.

In an interview, Dr Ng’oma regretted the spate of violent attacks on UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema in Muchinga Province last week.

He, however, observed that the sporadic attacks were confirmation that there was need for dialogue among politicians to work on reducing escalating tension.

“The continued attacks of opposition leaders in Muchinga Province is extremely unfortunate and it goes to confirm that there is, indeed, serious need for this country to hold the dialogue involving leaders of various political parties so that an equal platform is actually created for all. There is no way in one and the same country some people will be attacked just for visiting certain towns or certain provinces, that is completely unacceptable! It is something that must be condemned. So, I would like our country to hold this national dialogue to resolve their differences so that from the dialogue, leaders of various political parties can then instruct their cadres accordingly to respect the views and the presence of other leaders in the province,” Dr Ng’oma said.

He said failure to dialogue before 2021 might affect the atmosphere in which elections and the preceding campaigns would be conducted.

“I think that lack of dialogue will definitely affect the environment in which the elections will be conducted. So, to be seen to be in control and in charge, it’s important that we dialogue once and for all to sort out the problems that are actually leading to such attacks. It is really difficult to anticipate free and fair campaigns across the country because of what we are already beginning to witness. Some cadres may just disrupt the meetings or rallies of other political parties. So, to avoid something like that, I think it’s important that we hold our national dialogue to address whatever differences could be existing,” Dr Ng’oma said.

And he said sustained violence would also lead to voter apathy if not dealt with.

“If the political environment in the run up to next year’s elections continues to be characterized by violence, then I am afraid there will be people who would not want to participate in the elections. Voter apathy is likely to be high, especially among women who can’t withstand violence and also the first-time voters; all those are likely to be intimidated and, generally, would rather stay away than get caught up in violence. So, it is important that we really level the playing field by resolving the differences through dialogue and sending a very clear message to all the cadres that must maintain peace and accountability in the country,” said Dr Ng’oma.

“So, the kind of dialogue that must take place should involve leaders of the various political parties without really being in control, without saying the Church has to lead or what. All I am saying is that, our leaders need to talk, it doesn’t matter to me who convenes or chairs the meeting, but the leaders themselves should see the need to dialogue to resolve the differences.”