UPND national chairperson Mutale Nalumango says political parties should commit to the national dialogue process and conclude it before 2021, warning that Zambia cannot go to elections with political differences.

In an interview, Nalumango said the lacunas in the Republican Constitution needed to be tabled on the floor of the House by the end of this year, but this could only be done if the national dialogue process was successful.

“As UPND, we believe that there are many issues in the Constitution that must be looked at. There are parts of the Constitution that must be amended; there are too many lacunas in our Constitution and we need to address them before 2021. And the only way to go about this is through a conclusive dialogue [process] that will see people submit their concerns about the governance situation in our country, the judicial reforms, the Public Order Act… name it. The submissions that will made at the national dialogue is what will determine what needs to be adjusted in the Constitution because it’s all in there; all these judicial reforms and electoral reforms are all in the Constitution. So, if we can all commit to this process and get on with it once and for all, then we may get somewhere by the end of this year,” Nalumango said.

Nalumango expressed concern that failure to go through with the national dialogue might affect the national atmosphere after elections in 2021.

“Our hope is that this is done before elections in 2021. I mean, we agreed that when the dialogue process starts off, there are issues that must be prioritised and constitutional issues were among those that could be prioritised so that by 2021, we would have resolved all the concerns that have been registering. We just hope (as UPND) that the Church is not listening to detractors of the process. There is need for reforms in many institutions of governance, in institutions like the police itself, institutions like the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). All these, if they are not worked on, and we go to 2021, we will say it’s a sham! We will win [the elections], probably under a revolution as Zambians are getting angry! But if you leave it to say ‘the systems will work on their own’ then we are saying the systems have failed to work, because they have failed to provide an enabling environment for elections that are credible to take place,” Nalumango said.

And Nalumango insisted that the Church was the only body that could impartially handle the dialogue process.

“The concerns we have in Zambia are not about religion; the concerns are about the way politics are being done. So, the stakeholders in this matter are the politicians, that’s why we have said, us politicians, we cannot lead the process. Whether you say put the chairman for UPND to chair this dialogue, we would say no, because chairman will be a biased chairman. Whether you say let him come from ULP, we will say no! So, those saying they don’t want the Church to lead the process, what do they want? Were they not part of the ZCID that was talking with the Church? For us as UPND, we are still believing and hoping that the Church will remain focused and we will ensure that the dialogue goes on. The Church will get the support of Zambians, not the detractors who don’t want the process to take off. Our hope is that these things can be done quickly so that the amendments are looked at and we are just hoping that there will still be time to table the constitutional amendments within this year,” said Nalumango.