There is no way that President Edgar Lungu and his arch rival Mr Hakainde Hichilema were going to sit on a dialogue table and agree on how to resolve governance issues as stakeholders. Even if that much talked about dialogue were to happen, it would be a mere academic exercise, built by sanctimony and achieved through pretentious exploits. But there would be nothing for Zambians to benefit from it.
So we are not surprised that after welcoming Professor Ibrahim Gambari with a warm embrace last year, President Edgar Lungu has now made a 180-degree turn to insult the integrity of the Commonwealth.
“Dialogue is meant to achieve a predictable system which will enable us choose leaders without interference. We are ready to talk and anyone is free to participate in the dialogue process but not to take centre stage because we are a sovereign nation. Anyone can be part of the process but only as observers and the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue as the umpire. We Zambians have to own the process,” says President Lungu.
But just last month, the same mouth said: “We are committed to genuine dialogue and we want it quick. We have progressive views on the Constitution, Public Order and also want to fight regionalism and tribalism. So we are happy that Professor Gambari has set March 26 as the inauguration of the steering committee for the dialogue process.”
Some people are surprised to hear the President ridicule an organisation that he has been praising in the past year. Observers are shocked that after agreeing to all the conditions set by the Commonwealth for this dialogue to be held, the Zambian Head of State is now calling them intruders who must not be allowed to undermine the country’s sovereignty.
But we are not surprised ourselves. This dramatic turn of events only proves what we have been writing about the times that we live in. Our country is being governed under a system of justice by brutal vengeance. When the vengeance leads to a catastrophic end, the presidency looks for someone to mop the mess.
Hard as this might be for Professor Gambari to accept, President Lungu has used him and the Commonwealth to mop the Hakainde Hichilema treason mess. They have been used like toilet paper and flushed away. Their job is done and they can now get out and go to hell! In fact, the President has unleashed his vicious ministers on the defenseless international organisation.
“Stop calling for dialogue. There is nothing to dialogue about. We can only dialogue with those people in UPND if they accept that Edgar Chagwa Lungu won the elections in 2016. Other than that, there is no dialogue. What dialogue? There will be no dialogue. They will continue calling for dialogue, it will never happen,” said Minister of Lands Jean Kapata last Friday.
“We, as the Patriotic Front government are not going to allow dialogue to be super-headed by an outsider because Zambia is a sovereign country. There are problems somewhere else in Africa, why can’t those people go and dialogue there, not here in Zambia? As far as we are concerned, there is no war in Zambia. Gambari should come and organise our dialogue? What dialogue? Is Zambia at war?”
We sympathize with the Commonwealth and in particular, Professor Gambari who was fooled into thinking that he was a welcome guest in Zambia. When he came to this country, he was fooled by President Lungu’s character and he mistook his fictitious humility for nobility. The way he has been fooled is the same way Zambians were fooled when voting for this leadership. Our President is a conman and he knows how to use people for his advantage.
The truth of the matter is that this dialogue was never on the agenda for State House. Those who have ears and a good memory will remember that after declaring a State of Threatened Emergency in July last year, President Lungu said there was no room nor agenda for dialogue in Zambia.
He accused the UPND of deliberately setting markets ablaze in order to push for talks that would lead to a government of national unity. The Head of State said the rules of elections were that the winner takes all, and having won the 2016 elections, he was not going to allow the UPND anywhere close for them to sneak into the presidency and walk away with a fraction of his executive powers.
This is the real reason why the proposed dialogue has failed. It was not there in the first place. President Lungu feels bringing Mr Hichilema to a dialogue table is like granting him too much undeserved dignity. He doesn’t want a talking relationship with the UPND leader because he fears that it would open up unforeseen opportunities for the opposition. That is why immediately the UPND mentioned the word impeachment, State House jumped on the opportunity to rubbish the proposed dialogue. Just as they used the Commonwealth to downplay the humiliation which the Hakainde Hichilema treason case brought upon the presidency, they are using the UPND’s impeachment motion to flush away the international body.
But we fear for President Lungu because he doesn’t seem to be looking where everyone else is looking. Dialogue is one way of making amends and patching up differences with enemies. It is one way of demonstrating that he doesn’t own Zambia and he understands that time will come for him to go. If anything, it is President Lungu who stands to benefit from this dialogue, especially now that he has fallen out of favour with the civil society and even the church. If the President was in touch with reality, he would know that his end is going to be explosive.
Just in the last 12 months, we have heard big words like State of Emergency, Treason and Impeachment. Under normal circumstances, you would expect a Head of State to sit up and start rebuilding the lost glory, just in case the impossible becomes possible. But President Edgar Chagwa Lungu doesn’t care. He doesn’t seem worried about his future because apparently, he has a way of making a way where there is no way. Things that can’t happen under this leadership legally are made to happen Lungucally. Professor Gambari has just been Lungued.