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

Introduction

In the last article, I discussed the issues under dispute which some fellow citizens thought to be subject to the national dialogue; I also pointed out that there could be an iceberg factor, that is, issues which the parties would not want to publicly admit. It is now important to explain the parties to the much-talked about national political dialogue process in order to acquire a better insight into the parties’ motivations, aspirations and interests.

A dialogue that has divided the nation

From the beginning, I must state that the national dialogue process has divided the nation into two distinct groups. One group, where the Patriotic Front (PF) is the major player being the party in government, believes that the key issues in the dialogue are legal in nature, that is, constitutional, electoral reform and the Public Order Act, as well as civility in politics.

The other group, led by the United Party for National Development (UPND), see dialogue as a platform for discussing the alleged breakdown in the rule of law (most probably resulting from incarceration of the UPND leader Mr. Hakainde Hichilema) and the dismissal by the Constitutional Court, of Mr. Hichilema’s presidential election petition which his advocates failed to prosecute.

On the other hand, the church has also come up with its own agenda that include social dialogue, cultural dialogue and economic dialogue, among others. This is confusion at its highest.

On the side of the PF are political parties – with and without representation in governing structures – which form the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) and some civil society organisations who believe dialogue is about disputes arising from lacunas, ambiguities and lack of clarity in the constitution and some of other laws, which must be dealt with. To some private media that closely championing the same anti-government agenda as opposition parties, this group has been labelled as PF surrogates or affiliates.

On the side of the UPND are some Church leaders belonging to church mother-bodies, smaller opposition political parties without representation in parliament or government, some private media disguising themselves as being independent and some civil society organisations, who believe there is a breakdown in the rule of law, a claim most analysts have termed as imaginary. For the UPND and its affiliate political parties, the dialogue has recently been described as anchored on “the transition of power in 2021”, and so they ask the question: “what type [of transition]; chaotic or peaceful”?

The UPND and its affiliates answer that question, “And that is where the on-going national dialogue and reconciliation comes in”. Really?

It is little wonder then, that the UPND and its affiliates in what they claim to be an alliance, went “…to approach the Church Mother-Bodies and seek counsel on whether there is any role the that they [the UPND and its affiliates] could play to assist in addressing concerns of their colleagues in the Patriotic Front regarding the on-going National Dialogue and the Reconciliation Process”. According to this “alliance” of UPND and its affiliate political parties, the church advised them to reach out to the ruling Patriotic Front party.

So the bigger question is, what does the UPND and its affiliate political parties see as the role of the church in this on-going dialogue process which they have termed as focusing on the 2021 transition – on whether it will be peaceful or chaotic?

Common knowledge is that this ambitious “2021 power transition project” may be motivated by the developments in Congo DR where the church was at the centre of electoral dispute in trying to usher in the preferred opposition candidate. Unfortunately for the DR Congo Bishops, their gambit failed and they must now sulk in silence as Felix Tshisekedi, declared the winner of the DR Congo presidential elections by the constitutionally appointed Electoral Commission, takes the reins.

The role of third-party mediators in a dispute

From the above, it is worth pointing out that the on-going national political dialogue process means different things to either of the two camps. There is no matter of mutual concern between these two parties and, worse still, there has not been the process of give and take of ideas between the parties in an effort to find common ground.

The church has also come in with a totally new agenda of social dialogue, cultural dialogue, economic dialogue etc., which could be matters that are not really in dispute. This current path by the church is quite dangerous in negotiation or mediation proceedings. It is common knowledge that when conducting negotiations or trying to mediate in disputes, the third party must avoid the temptation of imposing their own views or settlement terms on the contending parties.

A good mediator must always remember to ensure that their values, attitudes and beliefs do not impinge on the process and unconsciously affect what they do and how they work. It is also a fundamental principle of mediation that the parties to the any dispute must be negotiators and the mediator such as the church only serve to act as a facilitator. It is the parties themselves that should be responsible for all their decisions, including settlement terms.

A common thread which the church has failed to recognise in trying to superintend on this process as mediators is the principle that the mediator does not impose his or her biases, decisions or preferences on the parties even though the mediator can provide information and help with evaluation, but none of this allows the church to influence the parties unduly in their decision-making.

The statements that have recently come from some church leaders at the centre of this dialogue process do not inspire the confidence that persons nominated by these church mother bodies are a neutral party as they have taken the dispute as their own, to the effect of stating that whether the PF are part of the dialogue or not it will succeed. What dialogue can there be with only one side to the dispute, attending? What dialogue can take place between UPND and its affiliate parties, or what dialogue can be there be if there is only ZCID and those that support it, in attendance?

The fact is that the parties are required to make their own decisions, as they did in Siavonga at the Secretary General’s meeting. Much as the church may have a different view, it must be clear that the church as mediator, cannot be responsible for the fairness of the outcome to be agreed between the parties but they are responsible for the fairness of the process.

The expectations are that the church should have been responsible for managing the mediation process in such a way that the procedure is as fair as possible to both or all parties and not the outcome itself. So far, we also know that the church cannot guarantee fairness of the procedure because it has already taken side and a stance on this dialogue. Worse still, the Church, it appears, will only listen to those who are sympathetic of them or glorify them and not critics.

The recent developments in the on-going national political dialogue process also highlights some power imbalances. This is normal in all processes because one doesn’t surely expect these many nameless persons in the name of party presidents, to be considered as being of equal standing with the main parties such as President Edgar Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema.

Power imbalances exist in most situations and mediation cannot and does not pretend to eliminate hem but the facilitator such as the church should have been strategizing to help prevent these from distorting this process. Mediators may address power imbalances where appropriate but where the power imbalances are as severe as they currently are in the on-going national dialogue process, and where it is felt that the dialogue cannot be fairly or effectively conducted, the most honourable thing for the church should have been to decline to conduct this process.

This is exactly what the Commonwealth did.

Conclusion

It is indisputable that the on-going process is divided on two lines: the UPND/Church and some UPND affiliated political parties and CSOs on one side whose focus is the 2021 power transition, if it will happen, and the PF/ZCID and others parties and some CSOs who see this dialogue as one that should have been addressing constitutional, electoral and law reforms on the other. One chooses to be on either side depending on these two thematic goals being pursued by the lead parties.

Minister of Justice Given Lubinda has said Government will give direction in due course on the reform programme but what the Minister may need to remember, is that time does not wait for Government to give direction. The time is now and this process of reforming laws must happen, and happen now.

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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52 COMMENTS

  1. The role of church in the Christian nation is exaggerated, it’s like there are holier than thou that they will now make holy laws from this dialogue. Sadly, this is a power transition project as pointed out. Come quick Jesus Christ!

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    • What creating this disrespect for our annointed men? Noticed even social media is awash with mocking our Papa Major 1 after his arrest. U folks don’t know Satan is using u to atack the holy ones?

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    • I don’t see any wrong with church siding with group having Zambia at heart. PF must remember these church leaders have more members than political parties, they Sata get into power. what’s wrong with helping HH also? u Isaac are just a hater!

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    • Hamakala,

      The church leaders may have more members than political parties, but remember that church leaders are never elected and their members belong to different political parties.

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    • This article has distorted the facts about National dialogue by projecting PF and it’s affiliates as the doers if good while UPND as the bad guys.

      Unfortunately such an analysis is deeply flawed due the following reasons;

      1 PF is the one responsible for breaching the constitution by instigating violence and intimidating judges. While UPND is seeking these issues to be addressed through the dialogue process which will be legally binding. It is this legal binding part that PF is afraid of because it will not let judges rule in their favour in cases of future constitutional breaches by the president and it’s party cardre.

      2. UPND wants issues of electoral violence and misinterpretation of public order act to be dealt with so that going forward no political party should be…

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    • 2. UPND wants issues of electoral violence and misinterpretation of public order act to be dealt with so that going forward no political party should be blocked from having meetings or rallies when ever they want as is the case under PF. But PF is afraid to commit to this because it knows the current use of public order act works to give it undue advantage over the opposition by controlling who where and when they should meet. While PF does as it pleases with police permission given retrospectively..

      3. One major issue why PF is opposed to fair dialogue organised by the church is that PF has little influence on the true church mother body. It’s afraid that it’s evil schemes to win elections by force through violence will be exposed and stopped by the church legally.

      4. PF has…

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    • 4. PF has now realised it’s support amongst the masses is fast dwindling and any attempt by the church to force it to play fair will get it out of government.

      That’s said , why is it that the PF only talk about dialogue when UPND threatens to match PF ‘s violent conduct during elections? Ans: PF knows that people can stand up and fight against PF head on if the opposition says fight back.

      This author is using DECEPTION BY SPIN in trying to portray the Church as being biased. Unfortanetly only PF cares can be fooled by this.

      PF and Lungu has run out of ideas and should go by force or by fire.

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    • ALL THOSE WITH HEARING EARS LET THEM HEAR AND LISTEN.
      ==========================
      King James Bible reads,
      “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
      If as we claim and rightly so, leadership comes from God, what role should the church play in national matters of polical in nature? The Church points to the Bible precepts and way of doing things. The “world” points to matters enshrined in the laws of the land, the Constitution. Using the church to settle disputes of a state, a sovereign nation like Zambia, is pushing luck far to much. If it worked previously, it cannot be said that it will work today. All matters require a relook…

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    • …of institutions set for this purpose, rule of law. A demand for reforms is key and the ZCID is equipped to adjudicate on political tension. The church’s role is to pray for the leaders. History reminds me that the last time, the church stepped in was to resolve issues of national interest when leaders were reminded to honor what was written in the constitution. They referenced the constitution to curb FTJ’s third term bid. The church is also important in talking to leaders with advantage to act leniently on perceived wrong doers or trepassers or transgressors as in the cases that involved the incarceration of both double h and double K in matters that related to POTROZ ECL and FTJ respectively. Not to be used to champion someone’s political agenda.

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    • Notwithstanding the fact that the church in its present setup may already have signaled the fact that they cannot handle this issue and may not be interested in call for them to handle the matter by indirectly sending the double h grouping and remnants to seek audience with the ruling PF. What hasn’t double h tried, the ICC, the Courts in Zambia, Diplomatic Corps, Zambia’s Cooperating partners, the elite Zambian people, Impeachment, the International media now the Church. They have seen how desperate this guy is.

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  2. The men of god nominated by church mother bodies are truly at centre of the confusion, creating a crisis to justify engagement. What has failed Zambia tho are institutions of governance and executive. If they had shown leadership to deal with reforms, this dialogue talk will not ve preoccupied national discourse. Zambia need serious leaders who know what to do, and doing the right thing. Not the bunch we ve!

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    • upnd have 53 members of parliament. EFF in RSA, in minority, pushed through the fundamental Land Expropriation. Why can’t upnd show leadership and concentrate on important reforms instead of focusing on the 2016 elections???

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  3. Church has ambitious 2021 project, working with Diggers (ex Post employees); Mast (Mmembe and his new party); Vision (Kalabas paper) to fight opposition political battle on behalf of the Money Man (HH). Nkani izibika

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  4. Both Church and ZCID have demonstrated lack of capacity to conduct a national dialogue process. Even if they do, no guarantee outcome of what they may agree to will bind anyone at all. Waste of time! Let’s deal with Parley, if we fail we fail

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  5. UPND/Church/Diggers/Mast/TONGAS/CCCHIPENZI AND COMPANY PLUS SMALL PARTIES ON ONE SIDE vs PF/ZCID/SMALL PARTIES/YALI/ZNBC ON ANOTHER ASIDE

    SUMMARY

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  6. The only credible dialogue is the one you engage Zambians who vote. Unfortunately that’s what Hichilema has failed to do, he’s always looking for others to support him. If you want to beat the PF target the voters like Sata did convincingly, then you won’t cry unfairness. Otherwise you’re wasting time

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    • He is always looking for partners from other tribes to mend the tribal tag dat always put him down but he ends up becoming victim. Soon u hear Kambwili is running mate over Nkombo. Gee!!!

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    • First ensure that those who count votes are truthful and trustworthy, otherwise voters will always just remain a smokescreen.

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    • H.H is not a national crisis. The problem is that the so called leaders have miss placed priorities. Tackle problems facing Zambians and not a person.

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    • With or without these small parties, we N UPND will form govt 2021. Anyone would be dreaming to think we can give CK or the talkative Sean a chance. They add less value to what we ve done all these years. For info, we ve started mobilisation nd HH is on tour of provinces

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    • Potpher-mobilising in 2019?? Is this the same hh who was supporting the mines over Zambians?? Is this the same upnd that just lost Chilanga Lusaka mayor and the under threat Sesheke??? Is this the same hh who goes to sink a borehole in Eastern but fails to do so in Sesheke??

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    • This is the main and misguided Chang with icilema!His agenda is fanning confusions so that he gets into power!on the hand apf can’t see that this I’d it’d chance to reconcile with Benz CK,kai scot etc to shame icilema. I was shocked to see icilema telling in lundazi that if they want peace they should vote for his candidate and that he had gone there to fight whoever oppose him! Shame, shame! He promised them good price for their produce which is a blue lie.The best way to help farmers is to advice them that farming s business and as such must approached in a business manner! I used to doubt those who accuse him of violent! I heard and saw him on prime TV on Saturday the 2Feb.2019 evening news

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  7. Days like this make me wish the white man didn’t bring these church groups to Africa. We exaggerate roles of these priests and pastors. They re just politician without guidance. What has happened with bishops speaking together using pastoral letters than impose politically inclined religious leaders to lead such important process?

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    • It is true!Anglo Catholic and Pentecostal or simply so called Protestants are peaceful Christian movement.Look at DRC, which church was in the forefront in agitating confusions or who kick started genocide in Rwanda?Find the answer by Googling!The so called mother bodies are partisan. All of them without exception and you want apf to st the expense of providing national stability,no ways

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  8. Dialogue is a failed project which church shud have abandoned but greedy for money is making them hang on. If these church leaders had some conscious they wud be listened to wisdom from above in “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold”

    Proverbs 22:1

    But every human is greedy and ready to sacrifice good name for money

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  9. What author of this article and thought who have commented on it have forgotten, deliberately or otherwise, is the genesis and history of the national dialogue. It’s the Commonwealth that initiated it. The PF objected to a “foreign organization” led dialogue, that is how the 3 Church mother bodies came in. The PF again seem to be dodging.

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  10. The youngman Isaac Mwanza has become so predictable. It’s no secret he is PF leaning, going by how he’s belittling the church and bunching them with UPND and its alliance partners.

    What corruption can do…, how so very sad. How I wish you stayed balanced, like your counterpart Shishuwa Shishuwa.

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    • The courage he has to say the story as it is is what impresses me. Its not Church thats problem but these priestly men who have apparent bias in favo of UPND. They need to go for retreat and pray. Sishuwa is also UPND. Let’s agree everyone is a political animal than pretend

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    • Corruption really comes in different forms. Anyone supporting PF is corruptly bought but what of the parties HH has bought by rendering legal representation thru Muchende Keith? HH has put Sean Tembo, CK and those represented by Keith in his pockets. HH finances News Diggers.

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    • Mayo Mpapa,

      I personally know Sishuwa very, very well and I have had a number of discussions and arguments with him. He is hardly what I can call balanced; his sympathies solidly lie with the UPND. He has definitely duped a number of gullible bloggers here with his deceptive writing style.

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    • Mayo Mpapa,

      I too have great respect for Sishuwa. He is extremely balanced and that is no mean achievement in a polarised country. Only PF cadres will say he’s sympathetic to UPND, the way MMD cadres used to accuse the boy of being PF when he courageously denounced RB misrule and corruption. Shishuwa has a history of consistency and l respect him for that.

      FACTS, you sound like you are the one trying to dupe us into claiming that you know Shishuwa. Tell us your real name. Otherwise even me can easily hide under the veil of online anonymity, falsely claim that l know you very well and use that to ask people to believe my claim that you are sympathetic to PF.

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    • The UPND have made us gullible minds that anyone who supports the PF are PF surrogates and anyone who supports them are independent. That is what money can do. They effectively use News Diggers to advance these thoughts. no media in Zambia is now free and independent, they are politically aligned, same with CSOs, and all institutions. Sadly UPND cannot win Elections in 2021 and 2026. Those small parties will sink with them. Kambwili has sold his soul the the Devil.

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    • @Michael Kalima, Dr Sishuwa is not a boy. He is a man. Is it hard to make your comment without belittling his age simply because he looks younger? I agree with your overall point though that Dr Sishuwa’s articles are credible by far and a cut above those of Mr Isaac Mwanza and his ilk.

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  11. My advice to Zambians is that be patriotic to your country and not to a political party or its leadership. Zambia is bigger and more important than anything else. Learn from what is happening in Zimbabwe and DR. Congo.

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  12. Perceived problems by nature are never solved because they are just perceptions with no real anchor. The political “war” in Zambia, has changed and at the center of it all is Hakainde playing to the gallery with the perception that he stands a chance to win the 2021 Elections. While at the same time gavanising the nation from focusing on his dictatorship in his political party. It is time our national laws of democracy extend to the political parties because these polical parties have become breeding grounds for dictators. Since it’s inception the UPND has never conducted any form of Democratic process to allow the people who support UPND to exercise their right. Zambia has the opportunity now to correct this anormally. It is not democratic for someone to be a leader by simply having an…

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    • I agree, HH and parties now affiliated to UPND are beneficiaries of this dialogue and not the nation. Hakainde wants to stay relevant with this dialogue and has managed to hoodwink the church on his agenda. This dialogue nonsense is meant to make PF dig its own grave by tagging along

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  13. … Zambia has the opportunity now to correct this anormally. It is not democratic for someone to be a leader by simply having an unfair advantage of having acquired wealth questionably. If we have to promote democracy let us do it now by harmonising all political parties to have conventions as invisaged in the National constitution and these conventions must be supervised by ZEC, period. If it means Govt paying for these conventions so be it. Democracy is not cheap. Let us not wait for someone from outside to tell us what to do. This messed up dialogue without proper direction will not lead the country anywhere except to create the environment that HH is still relevant in our political dispensation, when in-fact, his political fortunes have more than halved since the last general…

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    • Amambala aba, they want regime change. Let them remove the cloth and come into the ring. No matter how you campaign for HH, he cant win coz we know him and those that surround him use the tribe to think and not the brains.

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  14. … This messed up dialogue without proper direction will not lead the country anywhere except to create the environment that HH is still relevant in our political dispensation, when in-fact, his political fortunes have more than halved since the last general elections in 2016.

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    • sadly, PF got no guts to put it as clear as this. The church leaders in this dialogue are in this for money and funded by HH. No wonder they don’t want to mix money ZCID. In desperation, HH is also biggest funder of his alliance coz he knows Kambwili and Company aint going anywhere. He has managed to buy CK, Nevers, Sean T by giving legal aid thru Keith

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  15. Whichever way the Church/UPND respond or decide not to respond, my view is they have lost moral standing and the admiration in minds of many Zambia. The leaders of the church in this dialogue are different from those who were there in 1991. Politics and wanting to experiment is beclouding better judgment. Am with with Isaac

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  16. In Africa, churches are thriving because its big business for these self-proclaimed men of the clothe. Our politics and its monies offers an additional incentive for these church leaders to descend into arena in the name of trying to bring peace when we all know they harbour hidden intentions to influence political processes. As clearly pointed by Isaac, they tried in DR but it became failed project. The case was no different in Rwanda were they contributed to genocide. These Zambian Bishops now want to bring that curse on Zambia. Glad Isaac u have spoken as it it, loud and clear

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    • Caleb walya!Please peace minded people, tell CK not to work the moron! Advise him to swallow his pride and go back to his party he founded PF!!

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  17. It seems very difficult to have a neutral view on political issues when one is a voter. Similarly, I find it difficult to believe all our churches would lean towards only one political party in today’s Zambia.

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    • JUST WHY WOULDN’T THESE CHURCH GROUPS EMULATE THEIR JAHWITS COLLEAGUES? APPEARS ONLY PLACE WITH NEUTRALITY ARE JAHWITS. THE CATHOLICS AND PENTECOSTALS VE FAILED US MWE. ALWAYS BRINGING CONFUSION.

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  18. The Church will not personally respond but will respond through the UPND and its alliance partners, lol. okay ka regime change will not work. no better replacement to PF. HH will auction Zambia, including the church.

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  19. Looks like the country is getting bogged in “talks about talks”. Instead of focusing on the real issues facing the nation attention is now on ZCID and the Church. The only alternative to constructive dialogue is chaos, is this really worth it? Are the egos of a few individuals more important than peace?

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  20. President Lungu should not have invited the church to this process. These opportunists called church mother bodies re swimming in cash from Hichilema Paradise fimo fimo. we reaping what we sowed by trusting these church mother bodies. Someone need to withdraw current bishop and pastors from this process

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  21. give of a chance to rule,we have see some projects which are going on each and very time.its just that we can benefit all at once

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  22. Comment:what u should know is that the government of today has failed to develop all parts of Zambia.but wait and see what is coming next in 2021 will be a durable weapon to the least of leaders.we need change and choose a person who studied economy and who can balance the lives of people.

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