Zambian Center for Inter-party Dialogue board member Sean Tembo says the National Democratic Stakeholder Summit (NDSS) was a successful event because stakeholders who were invited, including Poor People’s Party president Alex Mulyokela, attended the event.

And Tembo says the decision by the United Party for National Development to shun the event implied that they were a childish political party.

Speaking on a Millennium Radio show, Wednesday, Tembo, who leads the Patriots for Economic Progress, said reports that the NDSS was a flop were malicious.

He said 90% of the people who were invited to the event were in attendance.

“As far as we are concerned, those reports [that the event flopped] are not true, and they are not just false reports but in my view, they are malicious. These are the kinds of reports which are being driven by people that do not wish the best for this nation. Because, I will tell you something, any person who is practicing responsible journalism, before they can go out there and say there is poor attendance, they are supposed to do some due diligence in terms of making sure that their report is credible. And if you talk about attendance at this National Democratic Stakeholders Summit that is going on, the starting point is, how many people were invited to this event? Because this is not an event that was open ended, we are not talking about a political rally whereby you go at a market and you start playing music and you invite people to come. We are talking about an event where participants were specifically invited. So, the starting point for any responsible journalist, is to find out how many people were invited and who are these people who were invited and then once you establish how many people were invited to this event, then you are supposed to find out, out of those people who were invited, how many actually attended the event,” Tembo said.

“And I must tell you that in terms of this NDSS, we invited a total of about 200 delegates to attend this function and out of those, in terms of yesterdays attendance, they were 174 delegates that attended yesterday. And that doesn’t include ourselves as board members of course. So, if you do a quick calculation in terms of establishing the percentage attendance of that function, my estimate would be that the attendance was approximately 90%. Now for a function whose attendance is about 90%, can you say such attendance is poor attendance? So, my appeal to various media houses out there is that in their reportage, you know the media are a very critical player to the democratic dispensation of this country, my appeal is we have a duty to make sure peace prevails. So, as we write what we write, we must make sure it is factual. If our message is distorted to the people, then you the media are doing a disservice to the people. So our appeal is that next time around, the media want to report on a very important event such as this National Democratic Stakeholders Summit, they must ensure that they report factually. They must ensure that they take a step further and find out what the truth is on the ground as opposed to taking a simplistic approach. You know, you just walk in, you look around, you look at the number of empty seats and you rush and go do your newspaper report and you even make it a headline to say ZCID event poorly attended, I mean that is regrettable and going forward, we hope that the levels of professionalism among the media will improve.”

He urged media houses not to belittle the NDSS just because Mulyokela attended the event.

“All political parties attended this conference, including Poor People’s Party president Alex Mulyokela and he made a pertinent submission. I see some media houses trying to belittle this event because president Mulyokela attended. In my view, I think that is taking a simplistic approach to this matter because you must understand that president Mulyokela is a bonafide citizen of this country and he got a right to make a submissions to this process. We cannot exclude him because of whatever people might view,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tembo condemned the UPND for shunning the event.

“The UPND were written to and the letter of invitation was delivered, there is a gentleman called general Maoma from the UPND who was given the letter at the secretariat. The letter of invitation; in fact, he came to the secretariat because he had come to collect his board sitting allowances. So, when he came to collect his board sitting allowances, he was given a letter of invitation. You must understand that this issue we are trying to address, the issue of national dialogue, we want to try and create a level playing field as we go forward. We want to undertake the necessary reforms as we go towards the 2021 elections so that the conflicts that we saw in 2016 cannot happen again in 2021. So, when you look at the reforms which we are basically undertaking under this dialogue process, they are meant to benefit us in the opposition more than they would benefit the ruling party,” said Tembo.