The Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) has decided to let the church chair the dialogue process whilst the centre retains its facilitation functions.

In a statement, Wednesday, political party secretary generals, who have been in Siavonga for a two-day meeting, shared their resolutions.

“We the under signed National Secretaries and Secretary Generals representing various political parties and the people of Zambia confirm our commitment to the National Dialogue Process. We have fully deliberated on the matters associated with the national dialogue and have come to the following common agreement: 1. We agree that the process shall be facilitated by ZCID and chaired by Church Mother Bodies; 2. We agree that the broad thematic areas to be considered at the Summit of Presidents shall include the following: Constitutional and Institutional Reforms, Separation of Powers and Judicial Independence, Tolerance, Freedom of Assembly and Civility in Politics, Electoral Reforms,” read the statement.

“We further agree to form a technical committee comprising of legal representatives from political parties and other identified stakeholders that shall look into key issues; We agree to mandate ZCID to immediately meet with the Church to set the program for the dialogue process; We have thus proposed a draft agenda and roadmap for the dialogue process; We wholeheartedly undertake to keep each other engaged in continued consultation to achieve our common objectives; and We reaffirm our commitment to the dialogue process in the interest of all Zambians.”

Meanwhile, in an interview, UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka said he decided to delegate people to attend the meeting due to health reasons.

On Monday, secretary generals for all political parties including PF’s Davies Mwila met at Lake Kariba Inn in Siavonga for the two days pre-dialogue meeting but Katuka delegated UPND Chairman for Research Dr Choolwe Beyani, National Trustee Collins Maoma, and Legal Counsel Mukambo Haimbe.

This infuriated other participants who described the UPND’s behaviour as lack of seriousness and disregard for the dialogue process.

But Katuka justified his absence saying he could not travel long distance due to medical reasons.

“I have the powers to delegate any senior member of the party. I have been delegated to by the president to represent a party at very high forums both at home and abroad. So why can’t I also delegate? We have Dr Beyani there who is Chairman for Research in the party, it’s a very senior position. We have also a lawyer, counsel Haimbe is there and then we have Mr Maoma who is a board member. So how are those junior people? Those are very senior members. You mean if I have any other commitments, I [can’t] decide which one is more important than the other? And I don’t drive long distance you know that I am just recovering, so I have not been well for a long time and so I don’t drive long distances. So what involves driving I have to find somebody to go on my behalf. That is why I sent Dr [Beyani], a Dr is a very senior member, he is Chairman for Research in the party,” Katuka said.

“You see it doesn’t matter who attends, the message will be delivered and they have been told what is expected of them. They have powers of attorney; they can make decisions on behalf of the party. And I speak to them every day, if there is any consultation needed, they leave the meeting to come out and make a phone call to find out how to go about it.”

Katuka reiterated that the UPND was committed to being part of a dialogue process led by the church.

“There is nothing wrong [with UPND and PF sitting on the same table], you see, we must know why we are sitting on the table. We are not sitting to seek any favors from Edgar Lungu, we are sitting there for the good of Zambia as a nation, nothing personal and it is not worshipping the PF, we are going there to look at the bigger picture which is in the best interest of the Zambian people. So if the dialogue is agreed to properly, and to be spearheaded by the church as we propose, they will have the right to call us as a party and call the other parties and say ‘sit down here [and] let us hear from you.’ You know that the Gambari style of doing this dialogue was one to create the steering committee whose membership will be drawn from stakeholders. We were all supposed to submit names of people to sit on the steering committee,” said Katuka.

“We want this dialogue because it is good for the nation. It is not about Edgar Lungu, it is not about Hakainde Hichilema, it is about Zambia and its 14 million people. We have said we will all go to this dialogue without preconditions. We have not set any conditions and we ask them not to set any conditions. Let us come with clean hands. They say ‘those who demand equity come with clean hands’.”