By Professor Michelo Hansungule
An overused Zambian political narrative is ‘dialogue’. A day hardly passes by without a politician resorting to the word ‘dialogue’ to make their point about the current political situation in the country. Ideally, dialogue is the way to go in resolving disputes and scholarship has acknowledged this see (April 1996 Judges and Scholars: Do Courts and Scholarly Journals Cite the Same Law Review Articles Deborah J. Merritt Melanie Putnam.
Most recently, it was the turn of UPND Secretary General Stephen Katuka who clarified that unless it was led by the Church, UPND would not partake in dialogue.
This was in sharp contrast to the ruling party which has been sending signals suggesting they would be comfortable with the Zambia Center for the Inter-Party Dialogue which opposition fears is doing the bidding of the ruling PF party.
Earlier, the Commonwealth Secretariat in London not only originated the discourse towards a dialogue as part of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema’s possible release from prison where he faced trumped up foolish treason charges for not giving way to Edgar Lungu’s motorcade. The Commonwealth sent Nigerian born respected Professor Ibrahim Gambari to try and oversee the dialogue but owing to bad faith on the part of government, his efforts are bound to come to nothing(http://thecommonwealth.org/sites/default/files/inline/Press%20Statement-Prof-Gambari-Nov-2017.pdf).
Like other Zambians who have spoken on it, let me also weigh in. In my view, there is no need for dialogue and in fact it is dangerous for the opposition to demand for dialogue with Edgar Lungu. Edgar Lungu is not a trusted man how do you negotiate anything with such a man? I thought the opposition knows Edgar Lungu by now, am I wrong? Edgar Lungu who has taken the UPND through unimaginable pain killing their cadres and arresting them willy nilly must now be trusted to dialogue with them? May I find out is it the same Edgar Lungu who locked up HH to satisfy his inflated ego after the latter would not give way to his motorcade who is now trusted to dialogue?
I also thought that the official position in UPND is that Edgar Lungu is not the legally elected republican president he claims to be which is also my position or am I the only one with this view? If UPND does not recognize Edgar Lungu as president, how would they dialogue with a person they do not recognize?
Regardless of what he says, Edgar Lungu did not respect the clear provisions of the constitution regarding the acting president during an election petition and the position remains the same. This matter is in the law, it cannot be subjected to political dialogue. It is treason as simple as that and no matter how long he illegally hold the presidency, it will come back to haunt him.
Equally, the issue of the 2016 elections scandal is ultimately a matter of law which UPND rightly took to courts for determination as per the letter and spirit of the law. Edgar Lungu banned the so-called Constitutional Court from listening to the petition because obviously he knew what would have been the outcome had the court been allowed to look at the constituency returns and where necessary to recount the vote. Edgar knew very well he dismally lost the 2016 vote and privately he conceded defeat. All this is public knowledge. The Kanyama vote, for instance, first ECZ criminally ‘gave’ HH a dismal loss only to raise it to upwards of 10,000 votes after counting ‘hidden’ votes. In a civilized country, aggrieved go to court but not so in a country like Zambia.
Zambia is finished as a country, I mean finished. Imagine PF party cadres under Edgar Lungu’s orders run the courts? Not only do the run the courts, they run the economy, run the entire executive and parliament and everything. Party cadres run the electoral commission and dictate who wins and who loses? Just a while ago, a PF party cadre clearly on instructions from Edgar Lungu had the audacity to write challenging two judges of the Supreme Court Justice Albert Wood and Mumba Malila to resign because of their involvement as witnesses in the Mutembo Nchito case, imagine that? It is a shame.
These are crimes. It is criminal for anyone regardless of status to tamper with the constitution and compromise institutions of governance the case in Zambia. Do you take this to dialogue? To dialogue over what when the matter is so straight forward?
Similarly, the unusually high levels of corruption in the country which are as a result of general lawlessness deliberately triggered off by Edgar Lungu’s corrupt regime is well known. In any case, you don’t take such a matter to dialogue, do you? You just arrest the baggers involved and lock them up and recover every single property the proceeds of this corruption. I tell you it will be easy to do so. Because nations now cooperate under both the UN and AU Conventions against corruption and particularly donor policies, all the illegally acquired wealth will be recovered. Just watch how the now powerful and rich ambassadors, ministers and presidents will skip their countries trying to hide in neighbouring countries when the time comes for them to account.
This brings me to my main point. Opposition, I mean real opposition, should not waste time on dialogue. Rather, they must case their eyes on the ball which is winning their people. By now, I expected opposition to be in villages and townships on door to door campaigns wining the hearts of women and men so that when the time comes they win upwards of 90% even with massive intimidation and rigging. Edgar Lungu and his PF are using intimidation and money to keep themselves in power, why can’t you use the same to take power from them? You see, the irony is there are so many youth that are not benefiting from PF corruption, get them and use them. Because they are hungry, these are youths that are not only ready to be used as they do in PF but even to kill, use them. Forget about this dialogue nonsense, you will never get power through dialogue. This dialogue nonsense will deflect you from your certain path to power.
Without prejudice to any outcome, I emphasise the basic point that Edgar Lungu cannot be trusted. You know this as much as I do. I know Edgar Lungu. He can’t leave State House through dialogue. He is not a man of his word. You can meet him and he can sign any dotted lines but if it means abandoning PF cadres, you’d be cheating yourselves. If it means cutting on his arbitrary powers so that now he allows you to have peaceful meetings, you are cheating yourselves. Go and populate the people instead of wasting your energies waiting to be in high powered delegations to the dialogue, you will get nothing from it. Rather, the so-called dialogue will weaken you. You most definitely are not going to be stronger out of dialogue.