TWENTY-SIX years ago, when Zambians were yearning for multiparty democracy and the one-party State was crumbling, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was venue to one of the most crucial meetings in the history of Zambia when the restless young men then who were demanding change came eye-ball to eye-ball with Dr Kenneth Kaunda to thrash out the agreement that ushered in the new political dispensation we now enjoy.
It was a make or break event as there was so much tension in the country over the UNIP government’s reluctance to give way to multi-partism because its leaders believed that one-party State was the central pillar of One Zambia, One Nation which had to be maintained at all costs.
It took the courage and determination of the Zambian Church to bring the two protagonists together to talk peace and save the country from the jaws of civil strife.
The Zambian Church were yesterday hosts to yet another landmark event after President Edgar Lungu proposed an all-inclusive Indaba to find a solution to the vexing problem of political violence where political leaders were to meet face to face for the first time since the Patriotic Front government came to power.
Now wonder the eyes and ears of the 14 million Zambians were yesterday focused on the Cathedral of the Holy Cross with great anticipation and sometimes trepidation – uncertain what to expect. But with President Lungu in charge, many Zambians were certain that a solution will be found.
Before this meeting Zambians were greatly concerned by the spectre of political violence especially among cadres of the major political parties. A week hardly passed without a report of cadres clashing, beating up somebody or simply challenging the police at every available opportunity. No wonder citizens were desperately worried as to what would happen before, during and after the August 11 elections.
The political arena was marked by insults, character assassination and corrosive hatred of political opponents, especially aimed at those in Government. President Lungu was being kicked like football – left, right and centre – but he maintained his cool and found space in his heart to call for the Indaba.
We thank and applaud all the leaders who participated in yesterday’s peace talks to promote Zambia’s culture of dialogue even in times of intense differences. This is the spirit that has made Zambia an oasis of peace in the midst of warring contemporaries and put God at the centre of her aspirations.
Indeed as one of our leaders said about the meeting: ‘‘Instead of throwing stones and using machetes as a means of negotiating, we have an opportunity through the Indaba, to lay a platform for civil and intelligent politics.’’
We are certain that the men of God who arranged the reconciliation meeting will make our political leaders realize the folly of false pride, the vanity of the arrogance of power and the threat of violence to Zambia’s political stability. This is a meeting where there will be no loser.
It is imperative that Zambia remains peaceful now as we approach the campaign period. Political violence has the potential to demean the integrity of our electoral process and make the results of such a system less credible.
As our leaders are being cajoled and counseled to thrash out a tangible agreement that will meet our high expectations as nation in turmoil, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross has once again become the cross-roads for the future of Zambia.
It is now or never.