Presidents rarely get appreciated when they make right decisions or when they show good leadership. It is usually the negative side of their actions that seem to get noticed. We don’t want to be part of that culture; we would like to give credit where it is due. We believe that when we respect wise decisions, the wise will respect us for rebuking their shortfalls.

President Edgar Lungu’s decision to engage in dialogue with Mmusi Maimane and Julius Malema, the key opposition political party leaders of South Africa, is an example of good leadership that must be commended. Whether the President “commanded”, “summoned” or “invited” these two leaders to a meeting is a matter of semantics, the point is that our President wanted to hear their grievances because they have been talking about Zambia at campaign rallies and in that country’s Parliament.

This was a perfect gesture of wisdom from President Lungu. We strongly believe that it was done in good faith with the intention of overhauling diplomatic relations, given the trade volumes between the two countries. We believe President Lungu realised that Zambia needs South Africa as much as the Rainbow Nation needs us. We also feel, considering how President Jacob Zuma narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, our President realised that one of these two opposition leaders could be his counterpart in the near future. It is unfortunate that our President’s efforts were met with aggrieved responses.

But that said, this desire by President Lungu to engage Maimane and Malema in dialogue, raises one big question: why now? We ask this because it is too soon for anyone to forget what transpired when Maimane attempted to visit Zambia. Maimane wanted to meet and encourage opposition UPND leaders to remain strong during the incarceration of Hakainde Hichilema. He also expressed his interest to witness the trial of the treason case. That was a perfect time for President Lungu to extend an invitation to the visiting leader and tell him whatever he now wishes to say. While Maimane ‘was’ in Zambia, the Head of State had the jurisdiction to “command”, “summon” or “order” the visitor to a meeting and warn him not to interfere with the country’s judicial process and to respect our sovereignty.

But what happened? Maimane was banished like a terrorist from a country on red alert. He was not even allowed to set foot on Zambian soil. The moment his plane landed at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, our government, the government of President Lungu, sent officers on board the commercial international carrier to harass him. They grabbed his phones and documents and told him not to dare get off the plane. His presence in Zambia was not wanted because he showed sympathy for Hichilema. What a diplomatic blunder!

Anyway, Maimane bitterly swallowed his pride and returned to his country, only to get an invitation from the Zambian President for a visit back “even at short notice”. Why now? Why are we inviting Maimane now when we treated him like an Ebola infected immigrant barely three months ago?

Has President Lungu forgotten what his political party said about these two South African opposition fronts? PF has no regard for the Democratic Alliance and its leaders. Our ruling party has no kind words for Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters. In case our President is not aware of what his left hand has been doing, we can help him.

“South Africa’s NAZI Party, the Democratic Alliance has no morality to comment on any governance issue in Zambia. Maimane is a boy who wants to use Zambia as his playground. This is a clear warning that he must not dare Zambians…he will book himself a bed in one of our prison cells,” said PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri after Maimane was deported.

In another Statement, PF media director Sunday Chanda said: “There is no doubt that Malema’s EFF and Mmusi Maimane have one paymaster and the two are nothing but puppets of those who seek to control Zambia’s mineral rights through their stooges…The EFF leader is a puny, a Gucci revolutionary…a shrunken, talkative joke, a charlatan who fancies himself big and cute enough to pass comment and judgment on developments elsewhere on the continent. Malema has sold out to forces of capital and paraded himself as an imperialist’s rabid lap dog…”

So what does President Lungu want to discuss with rabid dogs and NAZI imperialists? Why is it necessary for our President to meet the South African opposition leaders now and hear their grievances after Hichilema has been released from prison?

We support the move by President Lungu to engage in dialogue with those who are concerned about Zambia’s state of governance, but he must not do so for political expediency, he must not seek dialogue and reconciliation only when it benefits him. That is not good leadership. We would like to draw President Lungu to the eulogies that Zambians poured out as they celebrated late president Levy Mwanawasa’s life on August 19, 2017. Let President Lungu admire those words, let him strive to leave Zambians yearning for more of him.

At the moment, it is difficult to define President Lungu’s legacy, and if Zambians find Mwanawasa as the country’s barometer for good leadership because of his political tolerance, corruption intolerance and respect for judicial processes, then we don’t know what to say about Edgar Chagwa Lungu as a barometer for anything.