FOUR opposition parties led by FDD president Edith Nawakwi say the Church-led national dialogue process is only important if it guarantees UPND and its Alliance parties a gateway to State House in 2021.
But Nawakwi says people must realise that the 2021 elections calendar is not sitting idle while people are bickering and moving to and fro.
During a joint briefing at Taj Pamodzi Hotel yesterday, the four-member grouping of Wynter Kabimba (Rainbow), Felix Mutati (a faction of MMD), ULP’s Sakwiba Sikota) and Nawakwi said what the country needed more was electoral and constitutional reforms.
Nawakwi said the national dialogue was only important if it guaranteed the UPND and its Alliance parties a gateway to State House in 2021. “It is a vehicle for regime change and nothing else. A United Party for National Development in power would see no need for such dialogue. This agenda by the United Party for National Development and its Alliance parties has many players. This was clear from some of the speeches delivered during the purported launch on 18th January 2019,” Nawakwi said.
However, she said there was an urgent task to make legislative changes through Parliament.
“Therefore, sure amongst us we must realise that the 2021 elections calendar is not sitting idle while people are bickering and moving to and fro. The legislative calendar for this…if we don’t take the legislation to Parliament by June this year, forget about any reforms before 2021,” said Nawakwi. “The question you need to ask is: what causes pre and post-election violence? Right now there is mayhem in Sesheke and I always marvel at people who say that the electoral process is flawed and then people rush to participate in the same flawed electoral activity. And for me, I want to pull back and ask a question; what causes pre and post-election violence? We are all agreed that there’s need for legal reforms both in the Constitution and electoral process, including the subsidiary legislation that governs the conduct of electoral process such as the public order Act, et cetera. And Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue has been conducting seminars with all political parties without exception if they are not in the house, they are found in the forum for political parties outside Parliament and all groups…. If you talk about the public order Act, you find that when we are doing those seminars, we even invited the police to question them why do people beat us when we are…. And in those forums, they are very friendly and they even tell you, look you have left this clause open to manipulate the process. And therefore you will agree with me that we had to have new reforms and legislation, repeal and replace or just scrap the whole public order Act and create something new and no one will complain about police brutality or being denied a permit. No one will complain about the public media being a preserve of the few.”
And Kabimba said: “What we have been doing as politicians, what civil society organisations have been doing, is to speak to each other through the press, through these cameras, through mobile phones. We want to now come together and speak to each other around the same table. We would like to see President Lungu, president Hakainde Hichilema, president Nawakwi and all of us, including our colleagues, our brothers and sisters from civil society organisations to come around one table and speak to one another in the most brutal and candid manner as to how this country should conduct its elections, as to how this country should develop its democracy, ask one another; what is going wrong with our democracy? And I think if you take a cue from those questions, surely we must have a national dialogue that must succeed. Why? Because we want to make sure that Zambia becomes a better society than what it is today and that is what all of us are looking forward to.”
Sikota said: “There is a window of opportunity that is going to close after the June session of the National Assembly since we are not saying the others are not important. We are saying with these ones. There is a limited time, let us make sure we don’t miss that limited time.”
Mutati said: “Whilst we are separate political parties, we are like-minded, we share a common purpose. We are rallied around the same inspiration to make a change and we want to make a practical approach to this process. We realise that debate is important but legal reforms form the bedrock of the peace and stability that we are asking for and this will not happen if we don’t take the legislative reforms.”
The verbatim statement:
1. Members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen. We wish to welcome you all to this press briefing which is intended to provide the true facts of the events on the impasse between the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue and the three Bishops of the three Church Mother Bodies. Further we wish to give a response to the press statement issued by the Opposition Alliance on Friday, 1st February 2019.
2.The Opposition Alliance has conveniently omitted the issues of fundamental importance and agreement during the meetings referred to in their press statement. The omission is deliberate because stating the actual facts would expose their duplicity and ultimately their political scheme. We now intend to do just that so that the Zambian people can make a fair judgment.
3. To set the record straight, we have uplifted the paragraphs from the Opposition Alliance press statement and contrasted the lies with the actual facts. We wish to state at the out-set that all the proceedings in the meetings we held with the Opposition Alliance were duly recorded and a verbatim record is available.
4.When we first met with members of the Opposition Alliance at the Law Association of Zambia Secretariat on 24th January 2019, the Chairperson of the Opposition Alliance, Mr Charles Milupi asked a question whether or not we ourselves were meeting them as an alliance. It was made very clear to them that we were separate political parties and independent of each other.
At this meeting president Sakwiba and president Milupi were appointed as co-chairpersons. We were not surprised at the question because after the failed launch of the National Dialogue held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on 18th January 2019, a statement was issued by the Opposition Alliance calling those of us who did not attend the said launch as surrogate political parties of the Patriotic Front.
5. Let me now address the relevant paragraphs in the Opposition Alliance press statement.
I. In paragraph 2, the Opposition Alliance states that: “We in the Opposition Alliance decided to approach the Church Mother Bodies and seek counsel on whether there is any role that we could play to assist in addressing the concerns of our colleagues in the Patriotic Front regarding this on-going National Dialogue and Reconciliation process.”
II. In paragraph 3, the statement states that: “The Church Mother Bodies advised that Opposition Alliance to reach out to our Brothers and Sisters in the Patriotic Front and affiliated Political Parties and to sit down with them with the aim of seeking to resolve our differences, actual or perceived.”
The factual position is as follows:
On the evening of Friday, 18th January 2019, on their own initiative, the concerned Party Presidents namely: Hon. Sakwiba Sikota SC, Hon. Felix Mutati and Hon. Edith Nawakwi went to Kapingila House to meet the three Bishops namely Bishop George Lungu, Bishop Alfred Kalembo and Bishop Paul Mususu. The purpose of the meeting was to seek to resolve the differences between the Bishops and ZCID.
The follow-up meeting was held on 19thJanuary 2019, in which the four Party presidents presented a Draft Memorandum of Understanding from ZCID to the bishops. The bishops advised that they needed time to peruse through the documents and would revert to the party presidents after consultations. It was quite clear in the meeting that there were no major differences with the text in the Memorandum of Understanding. The bishops commended the party presidents for the initiative and emphasized the urgency to conclude and sign the Memorandum of Understanding.
While waiting for a response from the bishops with regards to the Memorandum of Understanding, president Charles Milupi contacted president Sakwiba Sikota requesting for a meeting which culminated into a meeting of Thursday, 24th January 2019.
When we met with the Opposition Alliance on 24th January 2019, we had no idea that they were coming to the meeting as EMISSARIES of the bishops. In that meeting, the Patriotic Front were not present as they were not invited. There were no differences “actual or perceived” between the Opposition Alliance and any political parties present in that meeting. We did not know the concerns of the Patriotic Front in respect of the National Dialogue which the bishops wanted the Opposition Alliance (as EMMISARIES) to assist them in resolving.
The truth of the matter is that the purported launch on 18th January 2019, was a failure in its attempt to promote the image of one political party namely the United Party for National Development. The rest of us were to be used as tokens to promote that agenda, and hence the reference to us as surrogates of Patriotic Front.
6. In paragraph 5, the statement reads that:
“the other side identified the draft Memorandum of Understanding that was intended to define the relationship between the Church Mother Bodies and the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) which had not yet been signed as a major sticking point”.
The draft Memorandum of Understanding was a document generated through consultative meetings between the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue and the three Church Mother Bodies, including United Party for National Development. However, the United Party for National Development president in the meeting pleaded ignorance of its existence. He requested for a copy which was given to him. It was then agreed that the meeting be adjourned to the following day, with the Memorandum of Understanding as the agenda item. At this stage the Opposition Alliance suggested that the Patriotic Front should be invited to the meeting so as to rally consensus of all Parties on the Memorandum of Understanding.
7. In paragraph 9, the statement reads that: “All Parties were agreeable to the fact that the three Church Mother Bodies will lead and Chair the ongoing National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process as they had ably done thus far, and that Zambia Center for Interparty Dialogue will assist with the process as delegated by the Church Mother Bodies from time to time”.
This paragraph is a complete and deliberate distortion of what transpired and it’s clearly intended to please some quarters including the three Church Mother Bodies for reasons only the Opposition Alliance would understand.
The verbatim transcript will show that all Parties agreed:
(a) That the three Church Mother Bodies will lead and Chair the National Dialogue.
(b) That there shall be a joint secretariat which will not be situated at Kapingila House or Zambia Center for Interparty Dialogue premises.
(c) That the secretariat shall be composed of staff seconded thereto by both Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue and the Church Mother Bodies and other relevant offices.
(d) That the Secretariat shall be headed by an independent professional person.
(e) That there shall be a National Dialogue Bank Account to be jointly managed by the church and ZCID. This is for the purposes of promoting transparency and accountability.
(f) That the agenda for the National Dialogue shall be as agreed by all political parties in SIAVONGA in June 2018, with room to include any new items during the plenary session of all Political Party Presidents and all stakeholders.
It is important here to point out that at the end of the meeting on the Memorandum of Understanding, Mr. Charles Milupi as co-chair emphasized that all Parties would now go and meet the three Church Mother Bodies as a united front. It was also agreed that the two co-chairs Presidents SAKWIBA SIKOTA and CHARLES MULUPI would go and submit the Memorandum of Understanding in advance of the meeting bishops.
On Sunday 27th January 2019, the Co-Chairpersons went to meet the bishops and delivered the agreed Memorandum of Understanding. They were shocked to learn that the bishops were already in possession of the Memorandum of Understanding. The bishops informed the co-chairs that Mr. Sean Tembo had already delivered the said Memorandum of Understanding and the bishops confirmed that the Memorandum of Understanding delivered by the co-chairs was exactly the same and that they had already reacted in writing to the document.
8. At the behest of co-chair, Hon Milupi, a meeting of political parties was called without an agenda at the Pamodzi Hotel on Tuesday 29th January 2019. To our dismay, the United Party for National Development and its Alliance Parties reneged on almost all clauses agreed to during the meeting on Friday 25th January 2019, and attempted to re-open debate on the Memorandum of Understanding based on the comments made by the bishops.
We then asked them as to whether they were speaking on behalf of the bishops or they had changed their minds about the agreed document in the meeting of Friday 25th January 2019 concerning the texts of the same MOU. In response they said that they had not changed their minds but they argued that the document didn’t reflect the spirit of the discussion. We advised them that there was no need to respond to the spirit of the meeting when the text to which [they] agreed was very clear.
It was a strange coincidence that the issues on which they wanted to reopen the debate were exactly the same as the comments raised by the bishops’ reactions in the Memorandum of Understanding. This level of hypocrisy was unacceptable.
When the Opposition Alliance insisted on reopening the debate, we proposed to them that the verbatim recording be played to the meeting in order to settle the argument. At which stage the UPND president stated that if we went ahead to play the recording, he would walk away and the dialogue process will collapse. With that threat from the UPND president, the meeting collapsed because it was clear that the meeting was unproductive.
Members of the press, we now clearly understand the maneuvers and capitulation by UPND and its alliance as stated in their press statement in paragraph 20 in the Opposition Alliance press Statement which reads:
“We do not see the possible success of the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process as a pre-requisite to our winning the 2021 general Elections, but rather as merely complimentary. A successful National Dialogue and Reconciliation process would ensure a peaceful transition of power in 2021, whereas a failed process would bring about a chaotic transition of power in 2021.”
From the foregoing, it is clear to see and understand that the National Dialogue is only important if it guarantees the United Party for National Development and its Alliance Parties a gateway to state House in 2021. It is a vehicle for regime change and nothing else. A United Party for National Development in power would see no need for such dialogue. This agenda by the United Party for National Development and its Alliance Parties has many players. This was clear from some of the speeches delivered during the purported launch on 18th January 2019.
It is for this reason that issues such as a transparent bank account are met with strong resistance from the Opposition Alliance. It is also for this same reason that a joint secretariat and other issues collectively agreed by all Political Parties in the meeting of Friday, 25th January 2019 had now become contentious and obstacles in preparing for the National Dialogue Process.
We wish to take this opportunity to inform the Nation that yesterday on 02nd February 2019, we submitted a letter seeking an appointment with the three bishops on the next course of action. As political parties we remain committed to legal reforms, which will promote peace and stability in our country.