Justice Minister Given Lubinda has blamed the UPND for lacunas contained in the Constitution saying they pressurised government to release the document before it could be taken to legal experts for scrutiny.

And Lubinda says it is disturbing to hear the UPND question the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID)’s competence to mediate the dialogue process when the party was recently at the helm of the institution.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Lubinda vowed that government was not going to surrender the Constitution this time around simply because one political party wanted to derail government processes all the time.

“When the Constitution Bill was taken to Parliament in 2015, legal experts hadn’t gone through it to check for inconsistencies and to check for lacunas in the Constitution, that’s why we are where we are now. But we are hoping that through this process, we can come up with a product that is more consistent; a constitution that will be easy to read and interpret not a constitution whose articles are interpreted in three, four different ways by different players, that’s not a good constitution. [But] do you remember how the Speaker was ridiculed when UPND members of parliament literally brought the whole process at Parliament to a standstill when they all converged in the centre of the Chamber demanding that Mr Speaker must allow the Constitution to be brought without amendment? They were saying ‘this is what the people agreed on, we don’t want the government to even remove a comma’, that’s what they were saying,” Lubinda said.

“So what did you expect [government to do] when the loudest political party in this country were calling for trouble in Parliament? They were literally saying ‘bring that document as it is’. But this time around, we are not going to surrender simply because one political party wants to derail the process of government all the time. Whatever government comes up with, they want to oppose and take the opposite view. We asked them to bring their submissions for the Constitution refinement, they didn’t. And now Mr Jack Mwiimbu is saying ‘we will not participate in this refinement process’. But we are giving an opportunity to get involved and you are saying you don’t want. That’s arrogance of numbers, this is not a PF document but the 54 MPs from UPND want to hold the whole country at ransom but who are they punishing? It is not PF but the people.”

And Lubinda, who wondered why the UPND suddenly had no confidence in ZCID’s capacity to chair the dialogue talks when it had been managing the centre for so many years, said the PF was ready to meet with other political parties and patch up differences.

“The Patriotic Front government and party have always been ready to dialogue. As we stand now, we are very happy that we have made a lot of progress in arriving at the process for dialogue. All the time we have been talking about talks [dialoguing about the dialogue]. But I think now we have gotten to a point where we even know the issues that ought to be brought to the dialogue table. But it is so disturbing to hear that ZCID is being looked upon with scorn by UPND. ZCID is a platform of various political players; it does not generate [its own] ideas. ZCID is simply a table on which all the different political parties sit. Political parties are the owners of the table and it was UPND who were in forefront of creating that institution. In the 13 years of existence of the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue, the party that has held the chair of that institution the longest is UPND. They held the chairmanship of that centre until December 2017. And today, they say they don’t trust ZCID?” Lubinda wondered.

“ZCID has a very skeleton secretariat and what we have said is that, let the political players go around this table and decide who they want to chair the meeting. And what makes them (UPND) think if this dialogue is facilitated by somebody else then we will be compelled as PF? We have systems in Zambia and whether the Commonwealth is the one that sits at the table and facilitates the meetings or not, ultimately it is us Zambians who are going to implement what we agree. It is not anybody else. We are a sovereign state and after 54 years of independence, isn’t it an insult to ourselves to say in the whole country of the 16 million Zambians, we can’t find one person who can come and chair the meeting? They haven’t tested the process but they are already rejecting it and insisting that this meeting must be facilitated by a foreigner. So, [perhaps] we should also remove [the] Speaker of the National Assembly and put a foreigner there. Parliament was established by law to be an institution where Zambians should go and talk about issues and agree on issues. So if the UPND don’t trust [the] Commonwealth, should it also follow that even the legislative functions of Parliament must be taken away from Parliament?”

Lubinda hoped that the dialogue process would culminate into understanding amongst politicians and their cadres, especially the PF and UPND.

“What I hope to see after the dialogue process is that political players in Zambia will be more consistent and more principled in their approach to governance issues. It is scandalous for political players to demand one thing [on the] one hand and reject it on the other; to suggest that you want to see refinements in [the] Constitution but then refuse to take part in the process. I also wish to see that hate speech and violence is no longer practiced and I strongly feel that we can achieve this the moment that people start to respect institutions of governance. Here, we have said: ‘come, let’s talk,’ and this is because we don’t want to bulldoze people. So, once we start talking, even our cadres will start to respect each other,” said Lubinda.