THERE was ecumenical ecstasy and jubilation at St Ignatius Catholic Church yesterday when President Edgar Lungu and his long political foe Hakainde Hichilema were made to cast aside their emotive political differences and show Zambians that in fact they had a lot in common than their differences could set them apart.
President Lungu is in State House and Mr Hichilema is aspiring to take over the governance of Zambia…both leaders have over the months acted like sworn enemies causing a lot of tension among citizens.
The relationship between the governing party and the opposition political parties in Zambia has over the years been characterized by acrimony, tension, bitterness and hate messages.
Their lack of tolerance has often led in some instances to violent and bloody clashes between their cadres and this ugly political scenario has persisted over the years with little or no hope of reconciliation.
In 1991, it took the intervention of the Church to bring first republican president Kenneth Kaunda and second Frederick Chiluba then in the opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) to meet and agree that despite their political differences, they were all Zambians and aspiring the same people they were aspiring to govern.
The political climate in Zambia since the passing away of president Michael Sata had been of name calling, character assassination, hate speech, malice and vulgar language at the expense of civilized politics.
And yesterday, Zambians witnessed a rare, emotion-gripping spectacle when President Lungu and Mr Hichilema were made to look into each other’s eyes to realize that in fact, they had never been enemies but leaders only in a contest to govern the country.
It was heartening, soothing, religiously comforting to see President Lungu humble himself before the opposition political party leaders which included People’s Party president Mike Mulongoti, Edwin Sakala of the ZDDM, Erick Chanda of the 4th Revolution Party.
Missing and not surprising, however, was Rainbow Party leader Wynter Kabimba, who aggressively proclaimed himself a true disciple of late president Sata. Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi who has become an arctic critic of President Lungu did not attend the memorial service as well as MMD leader Nevers Mumba.
For fourth president Rupiah Banda, it was all smiles to see President Lungu and Mr Hichilema exchange pleasantries and probably hoping that what happened yesterday would help the country heal from the bitterness and hate that has been governing the country’s politics.
President Edgar Lungu has confessed that becoming Head of State and going to State House had not been his idea…not even in his faintest imagination and he strongly believes only God had purposed him.
It is for this reason that soon after assuming the presidency, President Lungu immediately embarked on a campaign to preach love, peace, harmony, reconciliation and forgiveness declaring that without these virtues, Zambia was not going to achieve its primary goal of developing itself.
St Ignatius Church was filled to capacity while many others filled the outside of the church as Zambians came together in unity to remember a leader who had changed the course of Zambia’s politics, Michael Sata, the fifth president of the country.
“I want all leaders of political parties to come in front. We are here to celebrate the life of a man who loved and served the poor. There is no Nawakwi (Edith) here, no HH (Hakainde Hichilema), there is no Edgar Lungu. As political leaders, you should put your minds together in serving the people. Leadership is about service and that is what is going to distinguish a great leader. What the church has failed to do, the death of Michael Sata has made it possible…President Lungu and Mr Hichilema have shook hands,” Fr Chilinda said as the church ululated.