We have read with keen interest the rules of the January 18 National Dialogue at which all political parties have been invited to participate. We are told that organisers have given each registered political party three slots of representatives to attend. This is a very simple and straightforward coordination directive, but those with degrees in manufacturing confusion have already jumped on board to bring trouble.

For some strange reason, the ruling Patriotic Front is clinging on to an agenda that National Democratic Congress (NDC) leader Chishimba Kambwili must not be allowed to attend this event. Their argument is that the scheduled national dialogue gathering will strictly be for political party presidents and their respective secretary generals.

Suddenly, the PF is now recognizing Honourable Kambwili as its member who should communicate his contributions to the dialogue table through the party structures on the Copperbelt. They argue that since he is not a political party president, he should stay away from the function. We find this very ironic and wrong!

This discrimination from the PF is prompting us to ask, what is the essence of this so-called national dialogue? We thought this event was specifically meant for political leaders who have grievances against each other. We thought the mandate of the Church mother bodies and the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) was to bring political rivals in one room so that they can iron out their differences and move on a new page having resolved everyone’s concerns. If that is the idea behind this programme, why then are they blocking a man that they should be reconciling with?

Maybe we are missing something here. What exactly is threatening the Patriotic Front over the NDC leader’s interest in this dialogue event? Can Mr Kambwili become President of Zambia by attending this meeting? What will the Church, ZCID or the ruling party lose if this politician attends the dialogue meeting?

The PF cannot say this event is strictly for political party leaders. This is not an African Union (AU) Head of States Summit; it is not the United Nation’s General Assembly, but even at the two prestigious events, countries are allowed to send a delegated government leader to represent the President. What is wrong with Honourable Kambwili representing the National Democratic Congress (NDC) if the party has settled for him as its representative?

If he was coming in as a representative of the traditional healers association, we would agree that he would not have a role to play at the event. But he is a party leader and NDC is not complaining that he is hijacking their party; they are actually willing to give him an adoption certificate if the dialogue coordinators demand for it. So, why block him?

The PF must be glad to have Honourable Kambwili at the dialogue table so that they can tell him what they are not happy about his style of politics. If they don’t want to dialogue with Kambwili, who do they want to dialogue with? Dan Pule? What is there for Dan Pule to dialogue with the PF? They eat, drink together and connive to keep the President in power forever; so they may need a table for sharing spoils, but they certainly don’t need a dialogue table! This national dialogue is supposed to be between the governing party and the individual opposition political parties who feel aggrieved and politically oppressed. It is not supposed to be between Mr Hakainde Hichilema and Mr Elias Chipimo or between Mr Davies Mwila and Mr Raphael Nakacinda. These have no grievances against each other.

If the NDC is a registered political party and they have recognized Honourable Kambwili to be their 2021 presidential candidate, then that is enough to qualify him to attend this event on behalf of the party. This heart that the PF is demonstrating is sending worries to the public over what should be expected from the dialogue. It’s like they don’t want to make peace with anyone, they are just simply fulfilling a public demand without any interest from it.

The argument that Honourable Kambwili is not a party president doesn’t hold water at all. What about political parties like the Rainbow Party that has no party president, but operating under the leadership of the General Secretary? Will the organisers stop Mr Wynter Kabimba from attending the event because he doesn’t hold the title of party president? If Mr Kabimba is allowed, will he be stopped from bringing any other party member who doesn’t hold the title of secretary general? Let’s be serious as a nation and develop a desire to make progress in the things that we endeavour to do.

For more than two years, Zambia has failed to bring all political parties together to discuss ways of ending political violence, upholding the rule of law and respecting the electoral process. The National Day of Prayer and Reconciliation has failed to fulfil its reconciliation mandate; it is just a mass interdenominational prayer meeting where people pretend to be too holy for hours. This is the closest that we have gotten to a meaningful dialogue process and no one should be allowed to frustrate it!

We have come so far as a nation to drag our political leaders to the dialogue table. We can’t let Kambwili’s desire to attend the event be the reason for the whole thing to break apart. Shame on violent mongers who survive on hate speech and bloodshed!