UPND president Hakainde Hichilema says the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) has no capacity to facilitate the Commonwealth-organised national dialogue process between the Patriotic Front and other political parties.

And Hichilema has accused the Patriotic Front of avoiding dialogue on grounds that it will limit their chances of “stealing from Zambians” should the process end successfully.

Speaking when he featured on Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy programme, Monday night, Hichilema said ZCID had no capacity to handle the talks impartially because they were just “a group of surrogates for the PF” who were only interested in getting allowances and attending workshops for the yet-to-be held talks.

“The process of dialogue has continued to slow down in an acceptable way, this is March, 2017. when I came out of prison, one of the reasons for my coming out of prison was to restore the country’s accountability around the things we have articulated in our submission; that the rule of law is critical. We need to restore order, that includes the constitutional provisions, among other things. So anything we have said about the dialogue process will come to the table and UPND has no conditions regarding this process. You can’t say ‘I will only talk to you if you smile at me’, you don’t have to smile at me [because] it is my duty to talk to you to resolve something if I am normal or if I am not a dictator and I respect the rule of law. But counter attacks have continued to come up from colleagues. PF is saying that UPND is not interested in the process. But I want to use this platform to say that we are firmly, keenly and fully committed to the dialogue process,” Hichilema said.

“Now the thing is that ZCID has no capacity to table this dialogue because they are part of the problem. There are surrogate parties that sit in ZCID masquerading as representatives of the people and yet they are not, they are there representing the PF. You must see how they would come out if GBM says anything about PF not doing well, you will see the surrogates going for him like mad dogs and they do the same to me. So can you call those as parties that would provide a platform? There are few good parties in the ZCID and you actually see them going there just to have coffee and they would like to have workshops and meetings so that they could get allowances. But this dialogue has got nothing to do with allowances, it’s got everything to do with saving and bring back this country to normal. So ZCID has no capacity to deal with the serious issues we have listed out.”

He felt that the talks would rather go well and successful if the Commonwealth dealt with it single-handedly.

“The Commonwealth I think must be encouraged to get on with the job. As a matter of fact, they are in the country now. Professor Gambari is coming in the country and my message to him is simple – get on with the job. Citizens had hopes raised by the commonwealth and now that there is a process of dialogue, we will once and for all deal with these issues that are challenging our society. We have enumerated those issues already and commonwealth must get on with the job. We in the UPND must get on with the job, we are committed and we want PF to get on with the job also. Stop behaving like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand. Why are you busy paying attention to things that no leader should waste their time on, when the country is sinking?” Hichilema asked.

He accused PF of delaying the process on purpose so that they could continue to steal.

“So the refusal to dialogue by the PF is because they know that once this issue is tabled, the issues of corruption like the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway which has even stalled, questions about the tendering process will have to come. So they know that when the dialogue is handled properly, they will never have an opportunity to steal from the public again. If they continue delaying this process, I think that is where now the people come in, people must reach a point where they say ‘we will not allow people to play around our suffering’. PF is failing to give people food but UPND is saying, we will fix agriculture, supply inputs on time and at a lower cost and we will produce more food,” Hichilema said.

Meanwhile, the UPND leader boasted that his party would never steal from Zambians because its manifesto has clearly indicated how and what they would do for the country once voted into power, unlike the PF manifesto.

“In our 10-point plan, we are saying, we are going to create more jobs. We will drive the economy that will help grow the economy. This is what the UPND policy says but in the PF plan, there is no policy on investment. What I have seen is a policy on eating and that’s all you see in PF. That’s why we are telling the people that you don’t have to lose hope because help is on the way. Help in agriculture, restoring agriculture and creating jobs, help in health, in education and all these other areas. We are coming to fix this broken economy by introducing policies that encourage people to work in order to earn a living and that way, the economy will grow,” Hichilema said.

And Hichilema denied allegations by PF media director Sunday Chanda that his party had signed an agreement for the introduction of gay rights in Zambia while at the African Liberal Network (ALN) meeting held in Ghana’s capital Accra.

Chanda on Monday issued a statement saying the ruling party cannot be lecturered by a “club” with liberal values that endorsed gay rights, to which the UPND belonged.

The UPND was represented at the ALN general assembly in Ghana by its chairman for international relations Mulondwe Muzungu and spokesperson Charles Kakoma.