There has been too much talk about President Edgar Lungu and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema “agreeing to dialogue”. We have seen statements coming out of State House explaining how the Catholic leadership and now the Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland have been making round trips to Mukobeko Prison to mediate reconciliatory talks between the two leaders.

On Thursday, August 10, 2017, the government controlled and state-owned Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia ran screaming headlines: “Lungu, HH agree” and “HH recognises EL”.

We support the move taken by the two leaders to “reconcile, put the 2016 election differences behind and focus on 2021”. We would be among those Zambians who would rejoice if Mr Hichilema was released from prison and summoned to State House for that elusive post-election handshake between two political archrivals – for the sake of peace and unity. We encourage dialogue, and from what we remember, the UPND has never refused to dialogue with PF; it is President Lungu who has repeatedly told citizens that the only time he will dialogue with HH is if an agenda of what is to be discussed is put on the table or made public first. Maybe now that the Times of Zambia and Daily Mail are saying the two leaders have agreed to dialogue, they may as well publish the agenda of what will be discussed. We assume that whatever the agenda is, it has satisfied President Lungu and the PF.

So let President Lungu and president Hichilema reconcile. We actually don’t mind if the two leaders decide to take each other to Mfuwe on vacation to celebrate their reconciliation; it’s up to them and their political parties. They can hug, kiss, play njuga or drink chibwantu together and completely bury their differences; it is up to them.

However, we are concerned with where this reconciliation might lead. The tone of statements coming from State House and the wording of headlines being published and broadcast by government controlled media houses seem to suggest that this reconciliation may affect the treason case. There is a feeling which this impending dialogue is creating that seems to propose an end to the court case involving the UPND president.

Our opinion is that Mr Hakainde Hichilema must not be pardoned for the treason offence he allegedly committed. Neither President Lungu nor any government official must be allowed to prevent this eagerly awaited treason trail from being heard. We don’t mind Mr Hichilema and the five others being released or placed on House arrest (whatever the law allows), but no one should even begin to think about pardoning the accused for the crime they allegedly committed. We urge those who have, or think they have powers to pardon Mr Hichilema, to show their mercy on any other suspected criminal, but not him. We want the same excitement and courage that was there when arresting Mr Hichilema to continue as the matter now takes off in the High Court. Let the witnesses prepare and remain bubbling with confidence as they go to take the stand and testify that the UPND leader tried to take over executive powers of the President of Zambia.

We say this because there has been so much fuss about this treason case, and the world has waited for so long to hear its merit. It has cost Zambia the identity as an icon of democracy in Africa. In fact, this treason case is no longer about HH and his five ‘co-abused’; it is about the integrity of the Republic of Zambia. Our reputation as a democratic nation is at stake. The world wants to know, just as much as Zambians, what constitutes treason in this country. So far, we have already ruled out the Mongu presidential motorcade incident because that matter was disposed of, HH and his five disciples were already acquitted. We also know that it has nothing to do with HH using insulting language, because the State lost that case and the DPP has not appealed. It has also been made very clear that this treason case has nothing to do with HH’s failure to recognise Edgar Lungu as duly elected President of this country – both PF and State House have made public statements admitting that there is no law in Zambia that forces citizens to recognise a head of state.

This treason case, we are told, is about Mr Hichilema conspiring to take over the Republican presidency. The State claims that Mr Hichilema, together with Hamusonde Hamaleka, Muleya Hachinda, Laston Mulilanduba, Pretorius Haloba and Wallace Chakawa “used force to try and carry out an enterprise to usurp the Executive powers of the State”. They are further accused of conspiring to ensure that the UPND leader was declared President of the Republic of Zambia at the 2017 Kuomboka Ceremony in Mongu.

Surely, there are many Zambians who wouldn’t want Mr Hichilema to try and take over the executive powers of the President by force, and let alone declare himself Head of State. So if this is what he did, the world wants to know the details, hear the witnesses and see the evidence.

We have said it before that Mr Hichilema and the five ‘co-abused’ are not the only ones facing trial in this treason case. The Inspector General of Police who investigated or supervised the investigation into the allegations is also on trial. Since the Director of Public Prosecutions saw the evidence and was convinced that it was sensible enough and decided to go ahead to prosecute this treason case, her reputation is also on trial. That’s not all – the judge who will hear this matter, listen to witnesses and analyse the evidence before making any ruling will equally be on trial.

The accused have already been humiliated, harassed and punished. They have lived without their families for months, in terrible conditions. So it is too late to pardon them now; call the case and let us hear it in full!