Justice Minister Given Lubinda says those alleging that delegates at the ongoing National Dialogue Forum (NDF) are receiving allowances from government are being mischievous because sponsoring institutions are responsible for financing their own representatives.

And NDF spokesperson Isaac Mwanza says Forum delegates have adopted the mixed member proportional representation system to be prescribed in a new Act of Parliament following a general consensus that the country does away with by-elections.

The forum has also recommended for the introduction of a clause that will allow inmates and people living in the diaspora to vote.

At press briefing in Lusaka, Monday, Lubinda said government and the NDF had no money to pay any delegates, in response to claims by UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema that delegates were getting allowances from government.

“I am extremely perturbed by this insatiable appetite by some people to spread hate about such an important national process. I am also equally disturbed that some people always want to twist facts. In Section 15 of the National Dialogue Act, it is clearly stated that ‘the institutions to which members of the forum belong are responsible for the payment of all allowances, other emoluments and any other costs of their representatives in the forum. Where the institutions determine that allowances or other emoluments or any other costs are payable in relation to their representatives’. That is the provision of the law. Put simply, the National Dialogue Forum has no money whatsoever to pay allowances to any delegate to the forum. If the National Assembly has chosen that their members attending the forum should be paid allowances, it’s provided for in the law and no one will stop them,” said Lubinda.

“The Ministry of Justice has not inquired as to which organization is paying which allowances because it is not in the interest of the Ministry of Justice nor is it in the interest of the leadership of the National Dialogue Forum. It is therefore extremely mischievous for anyone to insinuate that members of the forum are being paid allowances by the forum or by the government. What remains the position is that every institution that has delegates that they’ve sponsored are responsible for paying their attendant allowances if they so wish. So my dear compatriots, I would like to dismiss with the contempt that this deserves. And if you members of the press asked many of the delegates, they will attest to the fact that government has not paid anyone of them an allowance for attending this forum. Those who are paid by their institutions will account to their institutions.”

Lubinda also said despite extending its sitting twice, the NDF was still within the budget.

Meanwhile, Mwanza told journalists that after a general consensus, NDF delegates had agreed to adopt a mixed member proportional representation system of electing councilors and members of parliament.

“This system is going to be prescribed in a new Act that will be called The Electoral System Act. It will categorise how the system will work because there are so many various systems of proportional representation, but it is a general consensus that we need to do away with by-elections and we need to have more women in parliament councils. We also need to have more young people and marginalised groups such that as those who are physically challenged. So this system is going to provide for such representation. This system as we said, is going to be researched and the detail will be in the Electoral Systems Act. We have further agreed that the system of electing councilors should be relegated to subsidiary legislation. Previously we had the Local Government Elections Act, which was repealed. So it means that the Ministry of Justice and the drafters will have to come up with an Act that will provide for this system. If it’s not that Act, they will find an appropriate Act, whether its the Electoral Process Act or the Electoral Systems Act where it will be enshrined. So we can confirm that it is a unanimous resolution by members of the forum that the election of councilors is going to be a matter of subsidiary legislation,” said Mwanza.

“It has also been unanimously agreed that our colleague Zambians who are living in the diaspora should participate in electing their leaders. This is the good news to our people in the diaspora who have been crying for a vote. This is the progress that has been made and we hope that this matter will take serious consideration as they are drafting. We are the ones drafting these bills together with Ministry of Justice and we hope that these bills are going to come up now for adoption by the forum. Then for those who are in the correctional facilities, ECZ has been clear that they are doing a study on how to capture them on their system. But there is a judgment from the courts that our people in the correctional facilities should participate in the voting system and this forum has agreed that those in the correctional facilities should indeed participate in voting in line with the judgment by the courts.”

And as at 11:30 hours, Monday, Kitwe Mayor Christopher Kang’ombe had appeared before the NDF’s disciplinary committee to answer to allegations of breaching the NDF’s Act a week ago.