PF media director Sunday Chanda says party officials are at liberty to comment on policy matters because it is the party which deploys government officials.

And Chanda says PF will not hesitate to shame civil society organisations that hide under the veil of CSOs when they, in fact, drive political agendas.

In an interview, Chanda said the party employed those in government, therefore, nothing restrained PF officials from commenting on policy matters.

“In dealing with the perception that sometimes there is a mix up between party and government interface to a number of issues and whether or not the party should comment on matter of policy or whether that should be the preserve of government alone. What is very clear and anyone who is familiar with the PF constitution will understand that the party forms government and in other ways the party deploys people into government. The Head of State when he is contesting as a presidential candidate, he does so on account of being adopted by the party. So he stands on the party ticket, the vice-president stands on the party ticket, all [PF] members of parliament stand on a party ticket, they are adopted by the party. And they are adopted by the party to implement the party’s manifesto. Note the party’s manifesto is what goes to inform what becomes government policy,” Chanda said.

“So the place of the party in relation to government is very clear. What is very clear is that there is nothing that restrains the party from pronouncing itself on matter of public policy especially as government does implementation. We have a right for instance to raise the flag when we know that what is being rolled out in not in line with the PF manifesto because at the end of the day, come 2021, we will go back to the Zambian people and the Zambian people will not judge us on the basis of how attractive our policies were, they will judge us on the basis of how we remained faithful to the social contract that we have with the Zambian people. And remember that the social contract that exists between the patriotic front government and the Zambian people is not any policy document, it’s a PF manifesto from 2016 to 2021. We own that manifesto and we monitor its implementation. So when we deploy our colleagues in government to implement this manifesto, it’s just very important that we monitor how this manifesto is being implemented.”

And asked why PF always seemed to be against the civil society organizations, Chanda said it was because some CSOs were driving political agendas.

“We have got no issues with Civil Society Organisations. As a matter of fact, we believe that civil society organizations play a very important role in the life of any democratic state. Civil societies comes in to provide the credible checks and balances and we know that there are civil society organizations out there that still remain and uphold the integrity that must go with the civil society space. However, we also know that there are civil society organizations that hide behind the clock of CSOs. These are politicians hiding behind the veil of the CSOs. And we have said to these colleagues, ‘either you come out and face us as politicians or we are going to piece that veil and expose you for you are. You mustn’t abuse the civil platform and yet you are pursuing and pushing political agendas. We know that some of our colleagues in these civil society organizations were promised to be press assistants to some of these opposition political parties had they won the last election and we know that some of them even applied to contest on opposition political party ticket in different parts of the country as members of parliament,” Chanda said.

He said if China announced some funding to CSOs in Zambia, even those that were speaking strongly against that country would line up for it.

“And the question is ‘how do you move from being the chief executive officer of this NGO to apply to be considered as a candidate on a political party?’ unless you’ve gone to bed with that political party. And because they were not adopted and because the opposition did not win the elections and because some of them are not the press relations or assistant to whoever they thought would be president and some of these people are not in parliament because they were not adopted by these NGOs, they have still come back and continued to masquerade as civil society organizations whose opinion we must embrace as neutral and coming from well-meaning civil society organizations,” Chanda added.

Chanda, however, said there were still some credible CSOs giving “professional advice” to government.

“We also know that there are civil society organizations that would wish to champion a regime change agenda for the simple reason that they would get funding from outside and we know that donor funding is just donor funding and tied to particular conditionalities. When this is a case, we are saying to our colleagues [that] you are better off putting Zambia first. I can tell you that if for an example China announced that it’s got funding for civil society organizations, you would see how many of these civil society organizations that have been calling China names would line up with project proposals to get funding from China. And some of them we know them by name, we know them as individuals and we know how politically aligned they are because we’ve lived with them and we have dealt with them. But there are civil society organizations that are very credible such as the Centre for Trade and Policy Development (CTPD). When they do their analysis, even when they disagree with the government, you can tell that they are giving an opinion on a particular matter because that is their role. It’s professional advice. But we have go NGOs that exist to make the patriotic front fail, and we are going to respond to them politically,” said Chanda.