The rivalry and anguish that we are witnessing between the Church mother bodies and the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue is slowly taking over the bitterness that exists between the Patriotic Front and the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), and indeed the rest of the political opponents.
These are the two institutions that have been charged with the responsibility of bringing together the various political parties in the country, and getting them to a common position on several governance issues, which have led to political tension, bloodshed and loss of life in the past. But so far, what we are seeing is that the tension between the facilitators of the dialogue is getting out of hand.
Last week, we carried a story in which the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue was accusing the Church of trying to hijack the planned national dialogue facilitation so that they could add more players to the process, and thereby, collect more proceeds from it. A few days later, we carried a bitter response from the Church, calling the ZCID ignorant and accusing it of insulting the Bishops.
ZCID spokesperson Jackson Silavwe: “We don’t want to participate in the Church’s politics. This Memorandum of Understanding [to facilitate the national dialogue] is not for CARITAS, CCMG or JCTR; the MoU is between ZCID and the three Church mother bodies. If you feel you need to consult CARITAS, then you can do it internally without involving us. The other thing is that the account for the national dialogue should not be domiciled at Caritus. As politicians, we don’t understand why the Church is afraid for us to have an independent account. It has never been the intention of ZCID to differ with the Church. But we feel that the Church has pushed the ZCID board to the corner…”
ZCCB secretary general Fr Cleophas Lungu: “We have never asked ZCID ‘where are you getting money to go to Siavonga?’ Our friends are interested in the allowances, the Church is not interested in the allowances, it is interested in the functionality of the nation… We know their agenda is to tarnish the name of the Church, it is to paint the Bishops as men who are after brown envelops…So, it is important for institutions like ZCID to humble themselves and be cautious in exposing their ignorance of the structure of operations of the Church.”
This is like a father and mother exchanging punches while trying to settle a dispute over who should stop their children from fighting. It cannot be expected that anyone can be rushing to a household where there is no peace to receive counselling. So, it is now actually laughable to imagine that these two bitterly aggrieved sides are expected to bring peace among the country’s political rivals.
This bitterness would be understood if it was between politicians because bickering is their way of showing dominance. The party that is more aggressive towards the other is perceived to be more organized and functional, gets to stay in the news headlines more often, and, thereby, becomes more popular. This is the endgame for politicians; that popularity from aggression is what they try to convert into votes during elections.
But we don’t understand the endgame for the Church mother bodies and the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue. We are struggling to wrap our heads around what is fuelling the spite between the two organisations. Is it about money or it is a battle for relevance? How will they bring national unity while they are divided?
In our view, the two dialogue facilitators need dialogue. They need it more than the politicians. We don’t see how they can inspire peace to the aggrieved parties, while holding grudges in their hearts. It is right there in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…” How will they forgive the politicians if they, as peacemakers, can’t agree and forgive each other?
There is urgent need for the Church and the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue to put away the bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander. If it is so hard for the peacemakers to put their differences aside, then they should not point fingers at the politicians. In fact, we are concerned that they are slowly losing the moral traction to be in charge of facilitating national dialogue, until their own dialogue succeeds.
But we wonder who will facilitate the dialogue for the dialogue facilitators, because at this pace, there is a possibility that another fight will ensue among those who are trying to get the Church and ZCID to dialogue. So, then, it will be 100 years before this dialogue trickles back to the PF and UPND who necessitated the original dialogue. One thing we know for sure is that it is not happening tomorrow as planned.