(By Oliver Chisenga and Christopher Miti)
INTERNATIONAL Fellowship of Christian Churches (IFCC) president Bishop Simon Chihana says the set-up of the ongoing National Dialogue Forum has been offside thus making it a horse race without the official rider. Meanwhile, Caritas Chipata governance unit coordinator John Mthaziko Zulu says those that have shunned the National Democratic Forum should not be demonised. Bishop Chihana said the NDF was an excellent idea and an important part of orchestra for good governance as the Constitution of the land was looked at and amended where necessary for good of the people but ousting the church by very selfish elements of the state had rendered it impotent.
He maintained that going by the Siavonga agreement, the three Church mother bodies, namely Christian Council of Zambia, Zambia Council of Catholic Bishops, and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia were the official chair of the National Dialogue Forum (NDF).
“The National Dialogue Forum is an excellent idea and an important part of sitting for good governance as the Constitution of the land is looked at and amended where necessary for good of the people. It is the way the whole thing of setting up the sitting that has been offside and hence making it a horse race without the official rider,” Bishop Chihana said.
He wondered why President Edgar Lungu would ignore the ones authorised to chair and authorise the unauthorised.
“According to the Siavonga agreement, the three church mother bodies, CCZ, ZCCF and EFZ, are the official chair of the National Dialogue Forum, but the Church has been ousted by very selfish elements of the state and by such an act, government has rendered the rule of law impotent. We must understand that democracy is only effectual if the people that embrace it observe the rule of law,” he said.
Bishop Chihana further said the implementation of new laws must begin by first observing the foundational principles of the rule of law which he said the current regime of President Lungu had regrettably ignored. He urged Zambians to arise and demand an explanation from the government as to why the official chair in the three church mother bodies had been ignored and laid aside.
“It is such that makes us to voice out for the voiceless. Why should the Republican President ignore the ones authorised to chair and authorise the unauthorised? Checks and balances are fundamentals of a healthy democracy, and acting and implementation of new laws must begin by first observing the foundational principles of the rule of law which the current regime of President Lungu has totally ignored. And this means that the state has exposed itself that they have very wrong intentions in driving the NDF sitting,” Chihana said.
Bishop Chihana wondered whether President Lungu’s government was after mutilating the country’s Constitution. He maintained that the purpose of the Constitution of the land was to benefit Zambians and not selected individuals.
“They have taken the people of Zambia for granted thinking we are docile of which it is very wrong. The people of Zambia must arise and demand an explanation from the government as to why the official chair in the three Church mother bodies, CCZ, ZCCF and EFZ, have been ignored and laid aside as though they don’t exist or they refused to carry out the job. Is the government of President Lungu after mutilating our Constitution? The purpose of the Constitution of the land is to befitting the Zambian people and not specific individuals,” said Chihana.
And commenting on attacks targeted at some opposition MPs that have boycotted the NDF, Zulu said people should not be attacked based on the choices they made.
“The NDF is not bigger than the constitution, which says every person has freedom of association. This means that if you don’t want to attend to something, you cannot be forced to attend. The NDF Act is smaller compared to the constitution, so those people (who shunned the NDF) cannot be prosecuted unless we are saying the NDF Act is bigger than the constitution. Those that are not attending the NDF should not be demonised,” he said.
“Maybe just to remind PF that they shouldn’t demonise the UPND and the people that are not attending the National Dialogue Forum because during the MMD government, the PF MPs were told not to attend the National Constitution Conference and the MPs absconded under the directive of the party leadership. The PF MPs that went to attend were branded as rebel MPs. So let them go back to history and see what happened. The Bible is very clear to say ‘do unto others as you would like them do unto you.”
Zulu said UPND, in an event that they get into government, should not be surprised to see the opposition boycotting their conferences.
“This is why the best dialogue was supposed to be done by the church, so we cannot condemn those that have not gone there. We foresaw these things, this is why we wanted the church to lead the dialogue but it’s the PF which disrespected and demonised the church and started to lead the dialogue but they had it in mind that the opposition will not attend,” said Zulu.