By JAMES KUNDA –
CONFUSION surrounds today’s much-anticipated national dialogue consultative meeting for political party presidents scheduled for Kapingila House in Lusaka.
While the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) issued a postponement notice of the meeting, the three Church mother-bodies which are supposed to chair the discussions said the indaba would go ahead as planned.
Separately, State House said President Edgar Lungu had not been formally invited to the meeting and had prior commitments on the Copperbelt where he was expected this afternoon.
ZCID spokesperson Jackson Silavwe said the indaba had been deferred due to a failure by the three Church mother bodies – namely; Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) – and his organisation to generate a consensus agenda for the meeting.
But the three Church mother-bodies said in a joint statement responding to ZCID, that to the contrary, the meeting would proceed at the same venue at 14:30 hours but proceedings would be held in camera due to the consultative nature of the discussions.
“The purpose of the meeting is to allow the Church to update the political party leaders on the progress made so far on the preparations for the national dialogue and reconciliation and the planned official launch,” partly reads the statement jointly signed byCCZ president Sydney Sichilima, EFZ chairperson Paul Mususu and ZCCB president George Lungu.
Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda said State House did not receive any formal invitation or programme from the Church or ZCID on the reported indaba.
He said that the president was today expected in Kitwe on the Copperbelt for engagements, today and tomorrow.
Mr Chanda said since the two meetings the president held with leaders of the church mother-bodies, there had been no formal invitation and programme.
He said President Edgar Lungu was ready for dialogue any time as per the programme to be set by the Church.
Patriotic Front (PF) deputy media director Antonio Mwanza also said the ruling party had not received any formal invitation to the dialogue meeting.
In clarifying on the aspect of invitation, ZCCB Secretary General Cleophas Lungu said the Church had earlier given ZCID the responsibility of inviting political party presidents, including President Lungu, who is also PF president.
For reasons best known to them (ZCID), they did not act accordingly.
However, the Church has issued the statement to clarify the matter and will subsequently reach out to those invited to confirm the scheduled meeting,” Fr Lungu said.
But Mr Silavwe said earlier:
“The postponement has been necessitated by the need for the three Church mother bodies and the ZCID board to conclude negotiations on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and structure of the national dialogue process.”
He said today’s meeting scheduled for Kapingila House in Lusaka was supposed to be preceded by a preparatory meeting between the Church and ZCID, to agree on the agenda, (MoU) and structure of the national dialogue.
“However, this meeting was unfortunately avoided by the three Church Mother Bodies without explanation,” Mr Silavwe said in a statement in Lusaka yesterday.
Mr Silavwe said at the request of ZCID member political parties, the ZCID board yesterday met at an emergency meeting at its secretariat in Lusaka and resolved to postpone today’s meeting.
He said it was imperative to have a known and concise agenda that had the confidence of all political stakeholders to eliminate any possibility of failure of the dialogue.
Deputy Press secretary to United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema, Brian Mwiinga pledged to issue a concrete position on the matter though did not do so by Press time.