Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue’s efforts to prove their capacity to handle the much anticipated dialogue process suffered a major setback, Tuesday, following poor attendance by stakeholders at the National Democracy Stakeholders Summit (NDSS), organized as a pre-dialogue process.

And Justice Minister Given Lubinda says discussions held at filling stations are just stories that cannot build consensus to resolve serious matters of national interest, referring to his discussion with UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema a few days ago.

The United Party for National Development (UPND) yesterday shunned the NDSS summit, while the Patriotic Front (PF) only had two junior representatives, aside Lubinda who was a keynote speaker in his capacity as Minister of Justice.

The event, however, was well-attended by leaders of minor political parties, including Alex Mulyokela’s Poor People’s Party and Chilufya Tayali of the Economic and Equity Party (EEP).

The summit hall was half-empty by the time Lubinda, the guest of honour, addressed stakeholders.

Earlier, ZCID Chairperson Nathan Mulonga, resorted to singing in a bid to emphasize that the Centre had capacity to lead the dialogue process, saying it was only Zambians that could bring peace in the country.

And Lubinda said discussions held at filling stations are just stories that cannot build consensus to resolve serious matters of national interest.

Lubinda was referring to his brief discussion with Hichilema, who shared with the nation that he had told the former that the church was better place to lead the process.

“You may recall that in February and March 2018, I used the floor of Parliament to request citizens, to request organizations to make submissions to the Ministry of Justice on areas of inconsistencies in the Constitution. By 9th May, 2018, we had gone through all the numerous submissions and had adopted the Constitution Amendment Bill. It is ready. However, it is my hope that you gathered here will guide us, as government, on how you want us to handle the issue of the constitution refining process. For us, in government, any organization that is agreed upon by all of us can let the dialogue process; all of you gathered here are the one who are supposed to build consensus on who should lead the process,” Lubinda said.

“And where do you build consensus without meeting? You don’t build consensus by meeting at a filling station. Those are stories you tell at a filling station. You only build consensus when you meet as brothers and sisters on a round table and say, ‘can we agree?’. And isn’t this what we have done today? Then, we shall release the Constitutional Amendment Bill, and if you come here and say you want to revisit the Constitution of Zambia again, so be it. What we would not like to do is to give you our end result of a long process because we fear that somebody might end up one day and say, ‘they were bulldozed because they were given the Constitution Amendment Bill that was approved by Cabinet. We shall keep that document for the time being as ours.”

He said by chairing the ZCID for seven years, the UPND demonstrated the Zambians had the capacity to lead dialogue process, but that if need be, international organizations should be allowed to do so.

“The UPND has done well over the past years in chairing the ZCID. They did a good job. Job well done. Think about the more than 16 million Zambians. But more importantly, think about posterity. Because no matter what we do, posterity is bound to judge this summit. To me, this summit is very reassuring, especially that the Zambian government has welcomed and hosted the Commonwealth through Professor Gambari. It is now time for us as a country to move the process forward. The government of Zambia remains steadfast to consultations both local and international, in terms of finding the best or more suitable modalities of addressing national social and economic matters. We, therefore, wish to reiterate our compliments to those who are putting in their efforts such as the Church; civil society organisations and the political parties themselves. As a stakeholder government is anxious to see the successful convening of more consultative platforms in the country. This is the only way of increasing opportunities, and windows where political players and citizens generally can resolve whatever seems to be differences amongst them,” Lubinda said.

He said government would not publish the Constitution Amendment Bill of 2018 until further consultations from the ZCID were held and submissions considered.

“Let me take advantage of this opportunity to inform the Zambian people that your government was, in keeping with the road map that we announced on the constitution refining process, we promised the Zambia people that on the 10th of May, 2018, we would publish the Constitution Amendment Bill of 2018. We shall wait until the end of this summit for us to publish the amendment of the constitutional refining process. It is ready and I want to assure you that unlike my predecessor who kept it in drawers, I am eager to release it as quickly as possible because it is your document,” said Lubinda.