Four opposition political parties have accused the Opposition Alliance and the church of trying to use the dialogue process as a vehicle for regime change.

At a joint press briefing, Sunday, Sakwiba Sikota of the United Liberal Party, Felix Mutati, leader of one of the two Movement for Multiparty Democracy factions, Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for Democracy and Development and Wynter Kabimba of the Rainbow Party, charged that the Opposition Alliance had deliberately been misleading the nation.

Nawakwi read the statement on behalf of the four opposition leaders.

“We wish to give a response to the press statement issued by the Opposition Alliance on Friday, 1st February, 2019. The Opposition Alliance has conveniently omitted the issues of fundamental importance and agreement during the meetings referred to in their press statement. The omission is deliberate because stating the actual facts would expose their duplicity and ultimately their political scheme. We now intend to do just that so that the Zambian people can make a fair judgement,” Nawakwi said.

Nawakwi said when the four first met with the Opposition Alliance at the Law Association of Zambia, they made it clear that they were not part of the alliance.

“At this meeting president Sakwiba and president Milupi were appointed as co-chairpersons. We were not surprised at the question because after the failed launch of the National Dialogue held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on 18th January, 2019, a statement was issued by the Opposition Alliance calling those of us who did not attend the said launch as surrogate political parties of the Patriotic Front,” she said.

Nawakwi said the four opposition leaders met the church in a bid to resolve its impasse with ZCID, but the church connived with the Opposition Alliance to frustrate those efforts.

“On the evening of Friday, 18th January 2019, on their own initiative the concerned Party Presidents namely: Hon Sakwiba Sikota, Hon Felix Mutati and myself went to Kapingila House to meet the three Bishops namely Bishop George Lungu, Bishop Alfred Kalembo and Bishop Paul Mususu. The purpose of the meeting was to seek to resolve the differences between the Bishops and ZCID. The follow-up meeting was held on 19th January, 2019, in which the four (4) Party Presidents presented a Draft Memorandum of Understanding from ZCID to the bishops. The bishops advised that they needed time to peruse through the documents and would revert to the Party Presidents after consultations. It was quite clear in the meeting that there were no major differences with the text in the Memorandum of Understanding. The bishops commended the party presidents for the initiative and emphasised the urgency to conclude and sign the Memorandum of Understanding. While waiting for a response from the bishops with regards to the Memorandum of Understanding, president Charles Milupi contacted president Sakwiba Sikota requesting for a meeting which culminated into a meeting of Thursday, 24th January, 2019,” she narrated.

“When we met with the Opposition Alliance on 24th January, 2019, we had no idea that they were coming to the meeting as emissaries of the bishops. In that meeting the Patriotic Front were not present as they were not invited. The truth of the matter is that the purported launch on 18th January, 2019, was a failure in its attempt to promote the image of one Political Party namely the United Party for National Development. The rest of us were to be used as tokens to promote that agenda, and hence the reference to us as surrogates of Patriotic Front.”

She said in another meeting, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema expressed ignorance of a memorandum of understanding which all parties, including his party, had agreed to, threatening to abandon the dialogue process.

“At the behest of co-chair Hon Milupi a meeting of political parties was called without an agenda at the Pamodzi Hotel on Tuesday 29th January, 2019. To our dismay the United Party for National Development and its Alliance Parties reneged on almost all clauses agreed to during the meeting on Friday 25th January 2019, and attempted to re-open debate on the Memorandum of Understanding based on the comments made by the bishops. We then asked them as to whether they were speaking on behalf of the bishops or they had changed their minds about what was agreed document in the meeting of Friday 25th January 2019 concerning the texts of the same MOU. In response they said that they had not changed their minds but they argued that the document didn’t reflect the spirit of the discussion. We advised them that there was no need to respond to the spirit of the meeting when the text to which agreed was very clear,” Nawakwi said.

“It was a strange coincidence that the issues on which they wanted to reopen the debate were exactly the same as the comments raised by the bishops’ reactions in the Memorandum of Understanding. This level of hypocrisy was unacceptable. When the Opposition Alliance insisted on reopening the debate, we proposed to them that the verbatim recording be played to the meeting in order to settle the argument. At which stage the UPND president stated that if we went ahead to play the recording, he would walk away and the dialogue process will collapse. With that threat from the UPND president the meeting collapsed because it was clear that the meeting was unproductive.”

She said it was clear the Opposition Alliance was trying to use the dialogue process as a vehicle for regime change, with the help of the church.

“Members of the press, we now clearly understand the maneuvers and capitulation by UPND and its alliance as stated in their press statement in paragraph 20 in the Opposition Alliance press Statement which reads: ‘’We do not see the possible success of the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process as a pre-requisite to our winning the 2021 general Elections, but rather as merely complimentary. A successful National Dialogue and Reconciliation process would ensure a peaceful transition of power in 2021, whereas a failed process would bring about a chaotic transition of power in 2021.’ From the foregoing, it is clear to see and understand that the National Dialogue is only important if it guarantees the United Party for National Development and its Alliance Parties a gateway to state House in 2021. It is a vehicle for regime change and nothing else,” said Nawakwi.