COMMONWEALTH secretary general Patricia Scotland has announced that incarcerated UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu have agreed to a process of peace and dialogue facilitated by her office.
Briefing the press at Intercontinental Hotel this evening following extensive discussions with the two leaders, Scotland said both President Lungu and Hichilema were committed to values and aspirations set out in the Commonwealth Charter on peace and harmony.
On Monday, Scotland visited Hichilema at Mukobeko where he is incarcerated and reported back to President Lungu on her visit yesterday morning.
But after briefing President Lungu about the discussion she had with Hichilema, Scotland returned to Mukobeko in the afternoon for further talks.
And during her briefing, Scotland said both leaders had agreed to a process of peace and dialogue facilitated by her office, whereby a roadmap of reforms pursuant to Commonwealth principles, good practice, governance and rule of law could be undertaken in preparations for the 2021 elections.
She said the proposed roadmap would be created through a conclusive consultative process, which would involve other political parties, civil society and church leader and other stakeholders.
Scotland said President Lungu and Hichilema had further agreed that a progress of implementation of the set reforms be reviewed at the end of 2019 to ensure that preparation and implementation of any such agreed reforms were concluded expeditiously in time for the 2021 elections and for benefit of future elections.
As expression of good will and in consideration of the agreement by both his excellency the President and the honourable leader of the opposition to dialogue and peace and their joint commitment to the proposed roadmap, both being men of faith and devoted to the people of Zambia, have agreed not to look backwards but in order to promote peace, stability and the public good, to look forward to the election to give dialogue, peace and harmony a chance,
Both parties have further agreed to take such steps as are within their gift to create an environment that is conducive to peaceful resolution by generating greater and deeper public confidence in their commitment to a constructive, progressive and responsible engagement.
Asked what the Commonwealth would do if both parties failed to fulfil the commitments they have made, she said each sovereign country had the right to manage its own affairs as it chooses.
Scotland said the Commonwealth’s role was to see if it was possible to broker a consensual agreement between President Lungu and Hichilema.
She said both President Lungu and Hichilema were committed to goodwill and the best interest and public good of Zambians.
Scotland said both President Lungu and Hichilema had willingly, without reservations, committed themselves to the process.
“Both need to be warmly congratulated,” she said.
“The commitment of both leaders is sound and I look forward to both not only keeping those commitments but delivering real value to the people they jointly serve.”
Asked whether in her engagements, she had discussed the treason charge that Hichilema was facing, Scotland said the discussions were very extensive but that both leaders had committed to dialogue and to create a roadmap through a conclusive discussion.
She said it would be helpful if the roadmap was allowed to be formed from the discussions as opposed to her comments on what should and should not be included.
Scotland said she had no reason to believe that matters important to both leaders would not be adequately covered.
Asked on the dates and place of the proposed dialogue, Scotland said both President Lungu and Hichilema had agreed that the process be facilitated by her office.
I have assured them that I intend to appoint an envoy as soon as possible so that with assistant of that envoy and through an inclusive process, which will involve the stakeholders who have hitherto been engaged in this process, we’ll be able to have a proper and expeditious timetable,
Scotland said on her return to the UK, she would take every step to identify and appoint an envoy as soon as possible.
She said neither President Lungu nor Hichilema wished to have any undue delay to the process.
“There is no impediment to the parties starting their conversations with others as soon as they wish and certainly even before I have appointed an envoy and I know both are anxious to get on with this process,” Scotland said.
Asked to highlight some of the concerns, she mentioned the electoral process and the new constitution and how it had been implemented.
When asked whether Hichilema would be acquitted for the process to take place or he would still be in incarceration, Scotland said from the conversations, both were fully aware of the other party’s positions.
She said any prosecution in any country in the Commonwealth was within the purview of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
That role of the prosecutor has to be undertaken independently and in the public interest. It is a decision that cannot be influenced and should not be influenced by political considerations. However, the prosecutorial task falls within two areas. The first is a determination of whether the elements of the offence complained of are made out and whether there is sufficient evidence to prove that the matters complained of will satisfy a jury to the requisite standard. The second test and equally important is whether the prosecution is in the public interest. It is only when both tests are satisfied that the prosecutor is then entitled to use their discretion to continue a prosecution. If the prosecutor comes to the conclusion that it is not in the public interest, not withstanding the fact that a case is made out to prosecute the matter, it is within the prosecutor’s discretion to issue a nolle prosequi. That is not something that is within the gift of the executive; it remains in the gift of the prosecutor,
All I would make clear and I do so having discharged this role as Attorney General in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, all I would say in relation to this agreement that is being genuinely entered into by the leader of the opposition, fully aware of his position and by His Excellency the President is clearly in the interest of the people of Zambia. Zambians are peaceful people and wish to be so.
She said the genuineness of the commitment she witnessed from both Hichilema and President Lungu could be relied on.
Scotland expressed optimism that the DPP would make a proper determination.
She said there was nothing that could be done by anyone within the executive to improperly influence the independent exercise of the DPP’s decision.
She said doing so would be considered grossly improper.
“I have no authority and would not dream of so doing,” said Scotland who emphasised that she was not trying to predetermine what the DPP would decide.