President Edgar Lungu does not need UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema to recognise him because the electorates already recognised him, says the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue.

And ZCID board chairperson, Nathan Mulonga, says some political leaders in the country entertain violence because they use it as a tool of gaining political mileage.

Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s special edition of the Sunday Interview, Saturday, ZCID board chairperson Nathan Mulonga said President Lungu did not require recognition from HH to engage in the much-hyped national political dialogue.

“They have got their own reasons. The political players in this country are so many. Amongst the political parties that are competing, who trusts the other amongst competitors? They don’t trust each other. So, when you try to shift that kind of thinking onto the Centre, they get it wrong. But as the Centre, we bring all the parties together. Look, if you ask me about an issue of recognition, it is a choice of an individual. And to me, if the Head of State can say, ‘look, fine, we move on. I am Head of State and this country recognise me, so I am not going to quarrel with you’. I will refer to the Kenya situation and I want us to learn from the Kenya situation. President Uhuru despite Odinga not recognising him, he reached out to him and said, ‘my brother, we move on’, similarly that can happen in this country. The nation has moved on and that is why I am saying that the President doesn’t require HH to recognise him [Lungu] to be President. He is President of the Republic of Zambia, the statute of this country recognises him,” Mulonga said.

And Mulonga observed that some political leaders in the country entertained violence and even possibly used it for political mileage.

“And I want to state here that violence in this country is with our leaders, and we need to deal with our leaders because if our leaders were able to simply heed to instructions of saying no violence, [there] wouldn’t be violence during elections. But probably they entertain it and use it for political mileage. We want to have a peaceful election in this country,” he observed.

Meanwhile, Mulonga revealed that the centre had written to President Edgar Lungu in 2017 requesting to visit then incarcerated opposition UPND leader Hichilema in prison but that the letter was only responded to by PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri.

“We are part and parcel of this. Look, for your own information, when president Hakainde Hichilema was incarcerated, we as a centre had written to go and visit him, to appreciate the conditions that he was going through at the prison. We wrote to the Head of State and what we saw is that the PF then through the deputy secretary general, Mumbi Phiri, responded to that. We cautioned her that you were part of the resolutions of the board when we said we are going to write to the Head of State to give us way to go and meet with president Hakainde as well as meet him to discuss the incarceration of president Hakainde,” he said.

“Letters are there to prove that. We wrote [but] we were denied an opportunity. We wrote to the Commissioner of Prisons [Percy Chato]; he refused us access to visit president Hakainde. We have been there. For you to initiate dialogue, you need to engage the parties that are involved, and that is the process we started, we wanted to talk to both presidents. Other people came in, but maybe the President had a soft spot for the church, they went and saw Hakainde.”

And Mulonga appealed for more powers to deal with erring members as well as to enforce some of the agreements made during dialogue meetings.

“We need maybe a little bit more powers to deal with erring members, which could come in form of maybe doing it under an Act of Parliament. If that can be done, that would be good because currently the way it is, it is a general agreement amongst the political players. But also I want to state here that the difference about ZCID from any other institutions is created under a trust deed. So, what we need to do is to see a ZCID, which will have more powers in dealing with its members and also in enforcing some of the agreements that we arrive at; that is one of the challenges. But so far so good, I have to state that all political parties in this country that have subscribed to ZCID, no one has walked out from ZCID because they recognise how critical ZCID is in the political life,” he claimed.

Mulonga said lack of understanding between PF and UPND was dividing Zambia.

“The issues of handshakes between the two presidents, yes, there is a saying that when the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers. What we are seeing currently is that because there is no understanding between the two major political parties as regarded, we are seeing a situation where people tend to take lives and the nation is being divided. And this is what we need to avoid. We need to remain a ‘one Zambia, one nation’ where people are able to apply themselves and consider things regardless of their belongings,” he said.

Asked to comment on its allegations by the UPND that ZCID was toothless, he challenged the party to explain why it had remained a member of the centre for seven years.

“UPND has been a member of ZCID for the past seven years and today, they are still members of ZCID. They are board members. When people say those things, you start wondering what are they up to? There were allegations and accusations of saying that we are surrogates, surrogates to who? How can we be surrogates? You don’t use such words on your friends. Anyway, it’s not true, not at all. If we were surrogates, I come from a different political party, I am FDD but I am also board chair. So, therefore, when I apply issues of the nation, I apply myself as regards to the interest of the nation. For the UPND, I want to ask them that they were at the helm of ZCID for solid seven years, did they see that there was no capacity? Is capacity coming in now that they are not chairing? I mean we should be very fair about these issues, including the MMD who were part and parcel of this institution,” Mulonga said.

He insisted that the Centre had the capacity to spearhead the political dialogue.

“If people call us toothless, why do they aspire to be part and parcel of the Centre? Isn’t it because it has got something that they benefit from? I think there should be sincerity when it comes to such issues. So, to us as a Centre, we believe that we have got the capacity. We are appealing to political leaders, including the Head of State, we [are] saying that there are certain issues, which are cross-cutting and we are dealing with the lives of the people of Zambia. Therefore, each and every political leader in this country should put Zambia first and serve the people. We all aspire to serve the people, therefore, our personal interests should be put aside and serve the people of Zambia. And we will see as we hold the dialogue, those who have got interest to serve the people of Zambia will attend the dialogue. So when you talk about my leadership I think as ZCID, I have only been there for six months and these issues started a little long [ago],” said Mulonga.