The opposition UPND and NDC will not participate in the dialogue process led by a committee of local eminent persons that has been constituted by the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID).

The two parties confirmed this in separate interviews, saying they were uncomfortable with the people that sat on the board of ZCID and that the Centre had no mandate to spearhead the dialogue process.

But the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), has welcomed the appointment of eminent persons to lead the process.

Last week, ZCID established a committee of local eminent persons comprised of: House of Chiefs Chairperson Chief Ngabwe; Senior Chief Madzimawe of the Ngoni people of Chipata; Zambian politician and businessman Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika and former FDD vice-president Chifumu Banda to chair the national political dialogue.

But UPND, through its spokesperson Charles Kakoma, said his party would not participate in any dialogue process associated with ZCID.

“First of all, no one gave the mandate to the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue to spearhead the dialogue process. They are doing that on their own, or it’s a secret deal with PF, because the stakeholders that met in Siavonga two months ago only chose the three Church mother bodies to spearhead the dialogue process. So, they cannot spring up from nowhere to start spearheading the dialogue process and appointing eminent persons to chair the process. Certainly, they are wrong and they do not mean well,” Kakoma said.

“What they are doing is to try to divert attention from the agreed roadmap, where the Church is spearheading the process, by creating a parallel dialogue process. And we cannot have two dialogue processes taking place at the same time to talk about similar issues. So, we should only speak to one dialogue process and that is the one led by the Church, not the ZCID one. The issue is that we have not, as UPND, recognised ZCID to lead the process. So, we cannot participate in a process that is being led by an organisation, which has not been mandated or recognised to spearhead the process.”

The National Democratic Congress (NDC), through acting spokesperson Misheck Moyo cited skepticism about ZCID’s capacity to appoint an impartial committee to chair the national dialogue as its reason for shunning the process.

“To be honest with you, we are not comfortable with people who sit on the ZCID board. We believe that most of them side themselves with the governing party, the PF. And in this regard, NDC is a member of the ZCID. But when picking Dr Lewanika, they didn’t consult anyone. Who did they consult? So, this entire process bleeds [with] suspicion. What we are insisting on, therefore, is that the Church, who are independent, impartial and credible, should lead this process. The men of God, who do not have any particular political influence, should lead the process. We all know where Dr Lewanika is coming from. He cannot be an independent and impartial person to lead this process, so we have certain reservations,” said Moyo.

“We are not comfortable with Dr Lewanika and we are challenging the ZCID board to inform the nation how they picked on that single name because a lot of people in this country have done conflict resolution and disputes, but to pick on Dr Lewanika without consulting raises a lot of suspicions. And we also want to ask the PF government, why are they are not comfortable with the Church leading the process? Why are they insisting on ZCID? If you look at the funding of the ZCID, it’s funded by the donors; they receive funding through the Ministry of Justice. So, their independence, therefore, is highly questionable. Then we just don’t want to draw the traditional leadership into politicking and we’ve got our own reasons. We are insisting on the Church, credible Church bodies, not these Church bodies, which are affiliated to political groupings because their intelligence is questionable.”

Meanwhile, PF media director Sunday Chanda said the party had welcomed the appointment of the eminent persons.

“Patriotic Front Secretary General Hon Davies Mwila has says that the ruling Party has welcomed the constituted four (4) man committee of eminent persons consisting of Chief Ngabwe, Senior Chief Madzimawe, Hon Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika and Mr Chifumu Banda SC to lead the dialogue process. Hon Mwila has also mentioned that political parties affiliated to ZCID made a collective decision to bring on board a Committee of eminent Zambians and the names announced by ZCID are those of credible persons with vast experience in their respective fields,” stated Chanda.