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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Part 1: National Dialogue – Defining disputed issues

Columns Part 1: National Dialogue - Defining disputed issues

The launch of the National dialogue and reconciliation at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy cross in Lusaka, Zambia
The launch of the National dialogue and reconciliation at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy cross in Lusaka, Zambia

By Isaac Mwanza


ZAMBIA is currently embroiled in the never-ending discussion on the national political dialogue process, a combination of words that became so famous after the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Right Hon Patricia Scotland, QC’s visit to Zambia from 7 to 10 August, 2017 although this dialogue had started as early as 2015 albeit on a small-scale among the youth from the various political parties. However, it is the failure of this current high-level dialogue to successfully take off that requires serious circumspection on what has or is going wrong.

In this first of 4 series of articles, I will define the disputed issues while in the second part attempts will be made to understand the parties to the dialogue process. In the third series, I will discuss the “failures” of the current leaders of the dialogue while the last article will propose a way forward.

Understanding the root of the conflict

What really are the disputed issues necessitating a national dialogue? First, it is important to understand a dispute as a class or kind of conflict which shows itself in distinct, justiciable issues and involves disagreements over issues capable of resolution by negotiation, mediation or third-party adjudication. The question as to whether a dispute exists, is highly relevant if the dispute is to be resolved by the means described earlier.

In our current context, the dispute seems to have arisen from the conduct of 2016 general elections under the amended Constitution of Zambia, the new electoral law, enforcement of the Public Order Act during the 2016 campaigns, and the violence witnessed in both the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) strongholds.

Later, when the presidential petition challenging the election of Republican President Edgar Chagwa Lungu could not be heard due to failure by advocates for the petitioners, namely, Hakainde Hichilema as presidential candidate and Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, to prosecute the case within the constitutionally stipulated time, Mr. Hichilema took his frustrations to two more steps: he refused to recognise President Lungu as a legitimately elected authority and demonstrated his defiance on 5th April, 2017 by a highly risky undertaking of not giving way to the presidential motorcade when the two attended the Kuomboka traditional ceremony of the Lozi-speaking people in Lealui and Limulunga in Western province.

This incident as narrated above, led to the incarceration of Mr. Hichilema who was later released under a deal brokered by the Commonwealth.

Therefore, the dispute has largely been between the UPND leader, Mr. Hichilema and the Patriotic Front’s President and winner of the 2016 presidential election and current Republican President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu. Interestingly, the smaller parties seem to have found an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon on either side of the dispute to make it appear as if they are part and parcel of the original dispute.

It is easier for smaller political parties to find many reasons to justify sitting down with President Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema by making the dispute appear to be a lot larger than it actually is. An analogy can be drawn from a potential presidential candidate, Alex Muliokela, who continues to complain about his failure to take part in the 2016 election because, in his opinion, he was discriminated against by the Electoral Commission of Zambia due to what he considered exorbitant nomination fees.

However, Mr. Muliokela did not litigate his grievance through our courts nor did he undertake a public campaign of grievance.

Regardless, the dispute that has given rise to the never-ending talk of national dialogue is one that can broadly be classified as legal in nature and involves a complex of issues, from the constitutional and electoral, to the political and judicial. They key issues in this dispute are matters of law arising from the perceived defects in applicable laws, while other issues appear to arise from dissatisfaction with the decision of the Constitutional Court. There have also been issues raised as matters of fact in the enforcement of laws meant to keep law and order.

However, they may also be issues falling within what may be called the “iceberg” factor in the current dispute in which, initially, only the stated legal issues were apparent but where much more lurked below the surface.

For example, what does the UPND leader feel about how the failed PF-UPND alliance (popularly referred to as the PF – UPND Pact), could have been a stepping stone for ushering the late Michael Sata and the PF into power? Does he consider it a betrayal in that it left him on the side-lines and as an active participant in what would have been a power-sharing government? Questions have also been raised as to how the UPND general membership feel about the 20 years their party has unsuccessfully contested the presidential elections and yet, within 10 years of its formation, the PF took the reins of power?

Whatever the iceberg issues may be, the main issues in dispute require more of law reform than divine intervention. This process requires active leadership – from President Lungu, his administration, both the ruling and opposition parties with parliamentary representation – to redressing issues of the constitution, electoral laws, Public Order Act and general law reform using a bipartisan approach.

This article has defined the path that led to the current political conflict which necessitated the national political dialogue process. Having a proper understanding of the dispute and its implications is useful in assisting the nation to select, and if necessary to design a proper process most suitable for addressing these particular issues. The understanding of the current dispute also helps us to acquire a better insight into the parties’ motivations, aspirations and interests.


In developed democracies where politicians take their responsibilities seriously – as we have seen from US President Donald Trump’s Government shutdown – it is unheard of for responsible politicians to abdicate their responsibility of providing solutions to matters of governance and, instead, hand over their public responsibilities to a somewhat amorphous clergy who only claim divine appointment and divine intervention.

Surely God Himself had a reason for creating political leaders! When the children of Israel felt lost, they demanded that God should appoint a king for the nation of Israel, and we know that the King took over responsibility for managing the affairs of the nation out of the hands of the clergy and into his own.

The lesson here is that God Himself ordained that matters of government and governance, ought to be in the hands of politicians, which is why He appointed a King for Israel to put Israel on par with the surrounding heathen kingdoms. Politicians must therefore always be in the forefront in finding solutions to political problems. Finding solutions to political problems and governance issues arising therefrom, is squarely the task of politicians, not the clergy.

The views expressed in this article represent the views of the author and not necessarily the views of any institution the author may be affiliated to or this media

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  1. I missed these intelligent articles. man you an asset to this country. Was worried of your silence of late. Waiting for part 2. The church have missed the point.

    • Isaac Mwanza, Andrew Ntewewe, Chris Zumani and Alex Ng’oma have all at one point argued that we don’t need dialogue because there is no crisis in Zambia. This is a simplistic and moronic point of view. Do we need a crisis to dialogue? Look at Zimbabwe. Dialogue is necessary at all times especially in times of relative peace

    • walasa apopeni Isaac. kukolapo! let UPND and PF begin to act maturely if dialogue is about to reforms and lead the reforms in Parliament.

    • Losers should accept defeat in humility.If they are aggrived, they should approach the court. When approaching the court they should hire clever lawyers who understand the provisions of the constitution and should not cry foul if they hire useless lawyers who just chew their money. If they start breaking the law they will be arrested and locked up. If they have clever members of parliament they should use them to push for constitution changes.
      Using the clergy to fight their political battles will not help them. The role of the clergy is to give holy communion !!!!

    • You guys are becoming like ticks on Hichilema. Will u ever leave him alone? Slow down Mwanza. You fighting a very powerful and wealth politician.

    • This dialogue thing is about one egomaniac in th name of HH, who does not want to respect the will of the Zambian voters. HH doesn’t deserve being a leader of the Zambian people due to hubris. If you want to know whether a man is going to be a good leader, look at how he treats those in authority. And if he has no respect for authority then anyone who is going to be under him is doomed.
      What puzzles me though is how seemingly intelligent men are spending sleepless nights, writing long winded articles trying to intellectualize the delusional absurdity of the UPND dictator.

    • @Samantha …..Do not be cheated. How can a very powerful man fail to ascend to power in 20 years.
      How can a very powerful man be locked up @ Mukobeko. How can a very powerful mab be hiding behind the clergy in trying to get to plot1. The powerul man is Lungu. I hope you undestand this.

    • Dialogue should be a continuous process, crisis or no crisis. So if in your home, you only dialogue when there is a problem, please know that you have a big problem.

  2. First time I agree with your approach. This dialogue has missed key point on what the real issues have been.

    • UPND youths axed by PF thugs in Mkomba Ward of Lundazi, Eastern Province.
      PF has intestified violence ahead of the Sesheke parliamentary by-election and local government by-elections that will be held on 12 February 2019
      On 12 February, Seven local government by-elections will be conducted in Anoya Zulu ward in Chililabombwe, Munyama ward in Kabwe, Mkomba ward of Lundazi district, Chindwale ward of Katete, Chinkutila ward in Chifunabuli, Nkombwa ward in Isoka and Sewe Mungole ward of Chavuma district.

    • What comes first, violence, elections or rigging?
      Former Moderator of the Church of Scotland and current convenor of its World Mission Council, the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers said their church is ‘deeply disturbed’ by a brutal crackdown being waged against civil protesters in Zimbabwe.
      In a proclamation, the Rev said it is time the chaos-torn country restore order and pay particular attention to the voices of its pregnable people.
      The Church of Scotland urged the Scottish and UK Governments to respond to a call for help from the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ).
      In an open letter for help, the CCZ, itself a partner church of the Church of Scotland said it was ‘disheartening’ that the international community was not doing more to help stem the violence in its neighbouring country…

    • … Africa and Caribbean Secretary for the Church of Scotland, Jennie Chinembiri, said the World Mission Council also received a ‘disturbing and saddening’ report. The account of the situation was from another partner Church, the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, in which it said there was a ‘warlike feeling in the air’.
      The Calvinist Church called for prayer as it admitted it was struggling to minister to its members in the face of the violence.
      Zimbabwe recently experienced a grim phase when an alarming number of its citizens were killed or assaulted. It was an effort by the state security to calm down commotion caused by the citizens. They had taken it to the streets to protest a steep increase in fuel prices that made its petrol the world’s most expensive…

    • … The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said the clampdowns by the state security left twelve people dead, seventy-eight with gunshot wounds, two-hundred-and-forty-two with dog bites and 466+ people arrested and detained.
      The abuses have not calmed despite President Mnangagwa denouncing the violence as “unacceptable” and “not the Zimbabwean way”. Members of the police and the military have of late reportedly accused of continuing to carry out arbitrary beatings, rapes, and abductions.
      The government accuses the opposition of kindling up trouble and the army said uniformed perpetrators of abuses are “bogus elements” out to tarnish its image.
      Intimidated residents in the working-class suburbs of Harare and Bulawayo are locking themselves in at night.
      Vendors in the city centre were…

  3. Too many cooks are spoiling the dialogue meal. Remove these smaller parties and allow PF and UPND to iron out issues, all this dialogue talk will become unnecessary. The church cannot make decisions that may bind politicians. We dealing with political issues here, we not in Church

  4. I like way you speak your mind out; the church, like any other NGO registered under same law, is apparently going political and they wot manage this dialogue process. Leave it to politicians to sort out their own mess

  5. Man, u need help the church and ZCID reach some common ground. apparent now that non of them want to leave the scene. they both smell cash. but u still ve a following with yo opinions. engage the church so u can understand what’s going on

    • These bishops are compromised no wonder they don’t wanna reach agreement with zcid. Watch the space, they will continue fighting over MoU, usage of words, how to handle finances for dialogue. They must ve gotten money from opposition which they don’t want zcid and pf to know

  6. Isaac u need to learn to respect Mr. Hichilema than way u address his grievances. he did not take his frustrations but his election was stolen by your bululu. why do u hate our President with passion?

  7. Ba Isaac Mwanza ikaleni fye muli chipuba!

    Wasn’t it the church that spearheaded the end of the one-party wamuyayaya rule? Nomba ba clergy banunka shani mumapa this time around?

    You think everyone is compromised by the tuma PF bribes – smh.

    • Kabiyeni ukunya ba @Mayo Mpapa. Nimwano wanyoko Isaac Mwanza ukutila ekale tondolo. Respect his right u simple cadre who don’t use brains to think.

    • Please note , there was need for change in 1991. That change was coming. Church or no Church.
      Kaunda DECIDED !!! The church simply jumped on the bandwagon and claimed having brokered,,,,,,It was a lie.

  8. The problem is not the Church as a whole but these compromised bishops trying to lead the dialogue process who are pro-UPND. My prayer is that the leadership of my Catholic Church will withdraw from this process and allow politicians to deal with self created problems. We can’t continue allowing politicians hiding behind bishops and men of cloth to fight their political battles.

    • I think Lungu is sharp, he has discerned the true agenda of the church to assist Mr Hichilema in his political agenda. soon u will hear church is leading grand coalition for 2021 elections and boom, Zambia will become Congo with church causing more confusion

    • There is only one place for politcal dialogue- PARLIAMENT. It is Representative democracy. The constitution does not provide for pointless dialogues.

  9. What will be the agenda of this dialogue? What are/will be the terms of reference(TOR)? Will it have any legal or constitutional backing so that resolutions of this same dialouge are effected to the satisfaction of all participants? Or it will be another ‘Commission of Inquiry’ facade of a dialogue meant to benefit participants in terms of sitting allowances and shelve the resolutions.

  10. But being dull is one of the biggest problems Africa is currently having. But who said you only dialogue when there is a crisis. Get it in your heads that even when things are sweet among parties dialogue should be a continuous process. I heard some political activist saying we don’t need dialogue because there is no crisis, I felt very sorry for the man because I was told he was lecturer, I felt sorry for the students he is handling

    • And one of the biggest democracies on the globe the USA (govt. shut down & Mexico wall) and even UK (brexit) is showing us by using their Congress and Parliament to sort out national issues not churches and bishops. Our constitution created parliament to pass laws and handle reforms. There are no churches in those clauses.

  11. That is why, in the first place, I said dialogue is between PF and UPND. Exclusion of one of these, renders the whole process frivolous. Clergy men and women should go back to the genesis of this dialogue process. They will discover that it was created because of the acrimony that was there between PF and UPND. The rest of the parties to the dialogue process are their to wine and dine. These two parties should not be removed from the equation. Any elimination from the equation, will be difficulty to find the solution. Other parties cannot be substitutes to the dialogue formular. The earlier the Church realizes about this,the better. I find it strange that the Church can utter a statement that it will go ahead with the dialogue process minus PF in its agenda. That is a grave mistake.

  12. Interesting viewpoints. However, the problems have more to do with a lack of a Constitution framed to protect the people from rogues, than the president in office. Unless there’s a new constitution framed to ensure protections, the next president will not be any different. Those seriously interested in resetting our national course, should advocate and contribute to such a discourse. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

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