STAKEHOLDERS have advised United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema to embrace dialogue and reconciliation with President Lungu.
Some political parties and churches say that following the release of Mr Hichilema from detention, a conducive platform and opportunity has been presented for dialogue that should lead to peace, unity and development.
Patriotic Front (PF) deputy spokesperson Frank Bwalya said the ruling party is confident Mr Hichilema will not betray the trust of stakeholders who have initiated dialogue between him and President Lungu.
Mr Hichilema was on Wednesday released from Mukobeko Correctional Facility after the State entered a nolle prosequi in a matter in which he was charged with treason.
Mr Bwalya said following Mr Hichilema’s release from prison, the ruling party is hopeful he will commit to the process of peace, dialogue and reconciliation initiated by various stakeholders.
While in incarceration, church leaders, Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland and former Nigerian president Olusegan Obasanjo met Mr Hichilema and President Lungu, separately, to promote dialogue between the two leaders.
Mr Bwalya was speaking yesterday when he featured on the Lusaka Star programme on University of Zambia radio.
He said the PF will continue to promote dialogue to enhance Zambia’s democracy and peace, especially ahead of the 2021 general elections.
“We want to believe that Mr Hichilema will not move away from that direction.
“We want to believe that he is a sensible person who has goodwill to move in the manner expected especially by people who participated in bringing us [PF and UPND] to the positive stage where we are,” he said.
Mr Bwalya was responding to the host of the programme who wanted to find out what the PF will do if Mr Hichilema continues to refuse the outcome of the August 11, 2016 general elections.
He said PF expects Mr Hichilema to continue providing checks and balances to President Lungu and the PF in a civil manner.
Mr Bwalya said the PF will not mock Mr Hichilema following his release from prison because “this is time for deep and sincere introspection to move this country forward”.
And Mr Bwalya dismissed as scandalous, malicious and false media reports alleging that he threatened to walk naked if Mr Hichilema was released from prison.
“I am a public figure, an open book, and I want to believe that Zambians know me better.
“It can only be out of malice or out of scandalous ignorance to believe such [that I would walk naked]. A person like me cannot do such a thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Independent Churches of Zambia (ICOZ) chairperson David Masupa has advised Mr Hichilema to put the country first by embracing reconciliation.
Bishop Masupa said in an interview yesterday that the State should be commended for entering a nolle prosequi in the case in which Mr Hichilema and his five co-accused were charged with treason.
“As ICOZ, we want to praise the Director of Public Prosecutions (Lillian Siyunyi) for releasing Mr Hichilema, although this is not an acquittal, it is a good thing. I want to appeal to Mr Hichilema and the UPND that they now have enough latitude to approach the head of State to engage in dialogue and reconcile,” he said.
“The President has ears to listen, and we are so sure he will listen. We have to move forward. We do not anticipate history to repeat itself,” he said.
Bishop Masupa said dialogue and reconciliation between the two political leaders should be taken as a matter of urgency because Zambia is renowned to be a haven of peace.
Bishop Masupa appealed to both the PF and UPND leaders not to entertain supporters who are in the habit of perpetuating violence.
“I want to make an earnest appeal to both the PF and UPND that they should not entertain pockets of political violence. I repeat, if at all the two political parties have pockets or supporters using violent rhetoric, inciting hate and violence, they must immediately stop such vices,” he said.
Bishop Masupa also commended Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland for her commitment in playing a mediatory role in facilitating a meeting between President Lungu and Mr Hichilema to resolve their differences.
New Congress Party (NCP) president Peter Chanda says the decision by the DPP to enter a nolle prosequi is a clear demonstration to the rest of the world that Zambia respects the rule of law.
Pastor Chanda said it is unfortunate that some disgruntled people want to tarnish the image of the country by telling falsehoods that Zambia is under dictatorship following the arrest of Mr Hichilema.
Pastor Chanda advised Mr Hichilema to distance himself from unwise people who do not respect the rule of law.
Pastor Chanda has since advised supporters from both the PF and UPND to uphold the republican constitution by ensuring that they observe the rule of law at all times.