NATIONAL Dialogue Forum secretary Patrick Chisanga says it is “definitely out of question” for the Forum to finish its business today and has therefore extended it for its sittings until Tuesday, May 14.
The National Dialogue Forum (NDF) started its sittings at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka on April 24 and was scheduled to close on May 8.
But justice minister Given Lubinda, upon request from the Forum secretariat, granted a three-day extension that ends today.
Yesterday, Chisanga told delegates that the remaining tasks of the NDF could not be completed by today and therefore sought another extension.
“We tried to roll out the remaining work over the next few days. Ending Saturday was definitely out of question. The programme I’m going to roll out actually suggests that actually that realistically speaking, we cannot finish before Wednesday, 15th of May and that is if we work Saturday and Sunday,” Chisanga told NDF delegates.
“I have already consulted the Minister of Justice after our meeting last night (Thursday night) to share with him what this picture is looking like. The minister is amendable to extending the time to enable us to comprehensively conclude our work. But he said the Forum has to take that decision and write to him in the normal manner.”
He indicated that Monday morning, the NDF would invite the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to conduct voting on contentious issues.
“So far, we have packed two issues that require secret ballot. If there are others that will emerge between now and Monday, those will also be placed on the ballot paper. As soon as we finish the voting and the results are known on Monday, we’ll start the process of adopting the draft bills,” said Chisanga.
“The NDF will not complete its work until we convert the resolutions into draft bills which we’ll be presented by the chair to the relevant ministers who will take it up in Parliament. So, we expect that that will be a fairly long process because each draft bill would have to be approved individually by this Forum. Once we make that decision, the chair will write to the Honourable minister for an extension.”
Before reaching ‘consensus’ on the extension, NDF delegates debated around the issue of exempting Sunday.
Others felt Sunday is a worship day and needed to be exempted.
But counter debaters argued that even Saturday was a worship day.
The Forum then agreed that the extension go up to Tuesday, with delegates convening even today and tomorrow.