Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo says Tourism Minister Charles Banda’s statement that the upcoming national dialogue should not be used to embarrass President Edgar Lungu are excuses by the PF to shun the talks.

In a statement, Tembo stated that the PF were not interested in the dialogue process because the agenda of the dialogue, such as rampant abuse of the Public Order Act, are issues that help sustain the ruling party’s stay in power.

“As PeP, we have noted with regret the statement that was recently issued by the Mr Charles Banda in which he threatened to withdraw President Edgar Lungu from the national dialogue process on allegations that the President was being disrespected by the Church mother bodies. Our position on this matter is that, the PF in general and President Lungu in particular, have never, at any given time, been genuinely committed to the national dialogue process, as evidenced from President Lungu’s decision to abscond from the meeting that was recently convened by the three Church mother bodies,” Tembo stated.

“The reason why the PF has never been genuinely interested in the national dialogue process is because national dialogue seeks to address the issue that the PF rely on in order to cling to power, such as abuse of the Public Order Act by the PF, prevention of political opponents from campaigning; abuse of the media by allowing state media houses like ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia to practice ‘yellow journalism,’ as well as intimidating private independent media houses through the threat of closure, and the abuse of the electoral laws by bribing voters using taxpayers’ money.”

He said Banda’s pronouncement in a statement issued last week was an excuse by the PF to stay away from the dialogue process.

“It is apparent to us that the PF are unlikely to let go of the tools that they use to stay in power, and by extension, the PF can never be genuinely interested in the ongoing national dialogue process. However, in order to save face, PF and President Lungu are looking for an excuse to use in order to abandon the ongoing national dialogue process. The statement by the Tourism Minister Charles Banda that President Lungu is being disrespected by the Church mother bodies is one such lame excuse,” argued Tembo.

“Our message to the PF and President Lungu is that, let them abandon the national dialogue process since they are not interested and have never been genuinely interested. However, Zambian people will judge them accordingly should there be chaos before, during and after the 2021 general elections because the national dialogue failed.”