THE Socialist Party (Zambia) says the new concept of a National Dialogue Forum, whose accreditation starts today in Lusaka, is an insult on the collective intelligence and wisdom of Zambians.
Government, through justice minister Given Lubinda, presented a national dialogue bill (now An Act) to Parliament that resulted in the formation of a bloated National Dialogue Forum (NDF).
The NDF’s objective, among other things, is to provide for a national dialogue process to facilitate the Constitution refinement process, regulation of political parties, public order Act and electoral process reforms.
The NDF is headed by yet-to-be ratified Professor Muyunda Mwanalushi who was appointed as a chairperson of the Forum by President Edgar Lungu.
The three church-mother bodies, the opposition alliance, 10 civil society organisations and two individuals and other independent voices roundly rejected the national dialogue bill that has given birth to the NDF.
The Socialist Party stated yesterday that it had followed the process of the national dialogue from the very beginning.
Socialist Party (Zambia) general secretary and 2021 running mate Dr Cosmas Musumali indicated that the leftist party was ready to participate in the national dialogue process, with the Church serving as a neutral arbitrator.
Dr Musumali stated that the Church mother bodies still offered some light “in this dark and uncaring world that we live in.”
“The initiative was, however, not given any chance,” Dr Musumali stated.
“The Patriotic Front ignored and disregarded that initiative with impunity. The Patriotic Front apparently wanted a process it could conceptualise, execute and oversee itself. Today, we are being called upon to participate in such a shameful, manipulative and costly exercise!”
Dr Musumali added that just like with the “debacle” of the previous constitutional-making processes, “this new attempt is an insult on the collective intelligence and wisdom of the Zambian people.”
“The Patriotic Front is not interested in constitutional changes, electoral reforms, the repeal of the public order Act or any changes that would enhance liberties for all – other than itself,” Dr Musumali stated.
“It is therefore naive and wishful thinking to put people’s hopes for equity, justice and peace in this National Dialogue Forum.”
Dr Musumali stated that the Socialist Party would not participate in such a shameful platform as the NDF.
“Let the millions of taxpayers’ money to be spent go towards meeting salary and pensions of our people. Those thousands not paid are a priority, not the pretentious Forum,” stated Dr Musumali.
“As such, the Socialist Party will not participate in this wasteful, corrupt, manipulative scheme of the Patriotic Front.”
According to justice minister Given Lubinda, who featured on ZNBC TV’s Sunday Interview programme, today would be for accreditation of delegates to the NDF at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
He indicated that tomorrow Prof Mwanalushi would be ratified as the Forum’s chairperson, election of the Forum’s vice-chairpersons, spokesperson and members of the standing committees.
“On Thursday, His Excellency the President shall officially open the dialogue process and on Friday the chairperson of the process will take over leadership of the Forum,” Lubinda highlighted.
“The deliberations will start on Friday. The 10 days (NDF’s duration) will start on Friday when the chairperson of the Forum takes charge.”
Reminded by the programme host, Grevazio Zulu that the Catholic Church, the UPND and the NDC have categorically indicated that they would not participate in the NDF and whether or not he was worried considering that they were major stakeholders, the minister responded that: “we cannot force anyone to dialogue. You can’t!”
“Those who have chosen that they will not take part, what can we do? The thing that I can do is to appeal to them that the process starts on Tuesday (today). If they are able to re-consider their position and go and register on Tuesday, I’ll be happy. For me, it’s not a question of forcing them; we can’t force them,” Lubinda said.
He added that by the end of business last Friday, out of the 119 institutions and individuals, 98 had already registered.
“Remember, the invitation was not by the Ministry of Justice – it was not by government. [But] we went back to those institutions that responded when we said ‘please, make submissions’,” he said.
“We opened this to everybody. Now, it is those institutions and individuals that made submissions that we have invited.”
Meanwhile, Lubinda claimed that while the MMD government “sat down and cherry-picked” which institutions to bring for participation in the failed National Constitution Conference (NCC) in 2009, the same could not be said about composition of the NDF.
“It (the NCC) ended up with a composition that was skewed towards the government,” said Lubinda.