By JAMES KUNDA and CHUSA SICHONE –
THE feuding between the Church and Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) headlines what is supposed to be the official launch of the national dialogue and reconciliation process in Lusaka today.
With the ZCID saying all the parties affiliated to it would give the meeting a miss and the Government saying President Edgar Lungu would not be available due to prior commitments and the failure by the organisers to send him an official invitation, it remains to be seen who shows up at the steps of the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
The Church, for its part, repeated yesterday that the launch, open to the public, would proceed as planned, saying political parties had confirmed participation.
At a briefing in Lusaka yesterday, ZCID board chairperson Nathan Mulonga said the Forum for Political Parties (FPP) outside Parliament resolved at a meeting in Lusaka on Wednesday to shun the launch.
He said 31 political parties and in voting on whether or not to attend the Church-organised public event, 24 parties indicated they would stay away, four said they would attend and three abstained.
Similarly, Chief Government spokesperson, Dora Siliya said while President Edgar Lungu was eager to participate in the national dialogue, he could not be expected to be at the launch without being invited.
Ms Siliya also said that it was impossible for President Lungu to attend today’s dialogue meeting because he was out of the country on national duty.
The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), however, said the meeting would go ahead as planned.
ZCCB Secretary General Cleophas Lungu said the launch, slated for the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross at 10:00 hours, would proceed as planned and all political parties were expected to be in attendance.
Fr Lungu said the Church was not aware of the stance by the ZCID board and had not received any formal communication on the matter.
He said in an interview that as far as the conveners were concerned, President Edgar Lungu had confirmed attendance of the launch.
Mr Mulonga said having written to the Church to meet ZCID to resolve the current impasse and received a negative response, affiliated political parties resolved not to attend the launch.
He accused the Church of refusing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ZCID and agreeing on the roadmap and agenda of the dialogue.
Mr Mulonga said ZCID would stick to the agenda of the second National Democratic Stakeholders Summit (NDSS) held in Lusaka in May, 2018 and endorsed by all political party secretary generals with representation in Parliament and FPP representatives in Siavonga last year.
He said a communiqué would soon be issued to the nation on the proposed date of the political party presidents’ summit on the dialogue.
He said the summit of president’s would consider broad thematic areas including; constitutional and institutional reforms, separation of powers and judicial independence, tolerance, freedom of assembly and civility in politics and electoral reforms.
Meanwhile, some political parties have decided to attend the meeting, while others opted to abscond.
FDD president Edith Nawakwi said she would not be in attendance as it was disappointing that the Church and ZCID were still at loggerheads over a matter of national interest.
Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) Felix Mutati faction, National Secretary Raphael Nakachinda said the party would not attend the meeting, while Nevers Mumba, who leads the other faction, was unreachable by Press time.
United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema said he would attend the launch.
Peoples Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda, also said he would be present.
Others unreachable for a comment by Press time were Rainbow Party General Secretary Wynter Kabimba and National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo.
Ms Siliya told a media briefing that the Head of State, who is ruling Patriotic Front (PF) president, would not attend any event when invited at short notice and that was standard procedure for any Head of State.
“As of last night, Secretary to Cabinet confirmed to me that he had not received an invitation for his Excellency to attend any dialogue,” Ms Siliya said.
Ms Siliya said by virtue of being Zambia’s president Mr Lungu’s calendar was managed by other people.
“The president, even if he was in the country, Government does not move the president on an invitation that comes less than 48 hours before, that is standard Government procedure for any President,” Ms Siliya said.
Ms Siliya challenged the ZCID and the Church to resolve their differences and tell the nation when the summit of party presidents would be held so that a logical conclusion to the dialogue process which was announced in 2016 could be reached.