THE country is almost breathing a sigh of relief as political party leaders seem to be moving towards the long-awaited on-and-off national dialogue.
Controversy, however, yesterday characterised the eve of today’s much anticipated national dialogue consultative meeting for political party presidents scheduled for Kapingila House in Lusaka.
While the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) issued a postponement notice of the meeting, the Church said the indaba would go ahead as planned.
It is sad that much debate and postponements have continued characterising the much-talked about dialogue preparations and all efforts seem to have been leading to nothing.
There has been finger pointing, accusations and counter accusations about key stakeholders changing goalposts or approaching the whole dialogue process with preconceived intentions.
The constant squabbling and finger pointing has only served to antagonise the political opponents further, leaving the country amid political tension that has been simmering for some time now.
Key in these talks is the participation of President Edgar Lungu in his capacity as Republican President as well as leader of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
Similarly, the participation of Hakainde Hichilema leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), which is the country’s leading opposition political party, is cardinal.
By virtue of leading the country’s two biggest political organisations, President Lungu and Mr Hichilema are crucial to the political dialogue process and no efforts should be spared in actively involving them.
The hope of all well meaning citizens is that the talks will one day be held in earnest.
It is the hope of many that the dialogue when, or is it if, it takes place will help put to rest challenges that pertain to politics in Zambia.
One of those challenges is political violence and intolerance that has characterised elections in the recent past.
From the January 2015 presidential by-election that ushered President Edgar Lungu into office after the demise of late President Michael Sata, the August 2016 elections that won President Lungu his first full term in office, and the various by-elections that have followed, political violence has been a growing concern.
There are other sticking points that will also need attention, such as the Public Order Act, which has been a contentious issue, and civility in politics which helps bring about a level playing field.
These talks are critical for the country to have unity of purpose in dealing with the many challenges that beset the population.
Solving these problems requires investments in capital projects, industry and other areas to create a suitable environment that can help the country advance and improve the lives of citizens.
In as much as the Government is working towards meeting this humongous objective, it needs the support and commitment of all stakeholders, including the opposition, to make the necessary progress.
Therefore, the people of Zambia are hoping that their leaders, both in the ruling party and in the opposition, will put the country first and work together rather than insist on settling old personal scores.