Northern Province Minister Brian Mundubile says the just ended National Dialogue Forum (NDF) was alive to the challenges in Zambia’s economy hence it made resolutions meant to save costs.

Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Frank on Hot programme, Tuesday, Mundubile said it did not mean that if deputy ministers were provided for in the Constitution, the President would appoint them in all ministries.

“Issues of the economy are very good arguments and I will tell you that as a forum, we were alive to issues of the economy. That is why most of the decisions that we made, we made decisions that would save costs. For instance, one of the big takeaways from the forum is that there will be no by-elections. We are working on a system that will do away with by-elections to save costs. And then the issue of a coalition government came in as a result of a run off to save costs. So even as we are addressing the issue of deputy ministers, the argument was that we are not enacting a Constitution for tomorrow. We are enacting a Constitution that will last a test of time,” Mundubile said.

“The resolutions that were made were made by consensus of the forum. So the question is, when you are enacting a Constitution, are you making a Constitution for today? Are you making a Constitution that will stand a taste of time? There are a number of issues that were raised… for instance if you argue the issue of deputy ministers in today’s context, your argument will be different. But if you look at other parameters, for instance that in the next couple of years, Zambia’s population will be maybe 50 million. That will call for a larger governance structure, so clearly your argument will be different because then you begin to look at amending the Constitution for the future. Another issue maybe, where you don’t need a deputy minister in a few ministries, it is also correct to say some ministries may need deputy ministers. But then people should not feel that the fact that there is a provision then the President will automatically appoint deputy ministers in all ministries tomorrow, what if its one that is required at a particular time?”

And Mundubile said government decided to legislate the dialogue process to make it transparent.

“First of all, what we’ve been through as a country regarding this dialogue process was that out of the Siavonga meeting, it was resolved that the Church could chair the process, that was option A, at the same meeting, option B was that a team of technical experts be appointed to spearhead the process. So we went to the first option of the Church charing the process and ZCID offering the secretariat. But for seven months, we saw an impasse between the Church and ZCID, they could not just agree on the text regarding a MOU and in the meantime, the people of Zambia were waiting to have a refined Constitution. So what government simply did, realising that as long as this particular process was left to arbitrariness, there was no end, government decided to legislate the process, which is what other guiding principles in the world over are recommending. So this particular process was actually governed by law, which was the NDF act,” Mundubile said.

“Now, what are we trying to achieve by legislating this process? First of all, the process had to be transparent, the process had to be accountable, inclusive and of course establish the dialogue process through which every citizen could follow through and air put their concerns. If you read through the NDF Act, you could actually see who was attending this process. So that’s part of transparency, it spoke to the time line…how long would this process be and so on. So it was a properly structured process as it was.”

He said the NDF was well attended by people from all sectors of life.

“For those that may have stayed away, by the way, I first of all want to say that the forum was well attended. All political parties in Zambia attended the forum. The civil society organisations, professional bodies, citizens, Churches and many others. So clearly, if you look at it from that perspective, it’s difficult to identify who did not come because in terms of representation, we had representation from all walks of life. Then when you look at the delegates, you would realise that the number of politicians were even fewer than those of civil society organisations and this was what was very pleasing because otherwise, there would have been a feeling that it was driven by politicians, politicians in PF,” Mundubile said.

Meanwhile, Mundubile dispelled allegations that the conveners and facilitators of the NDF were carefully selected by President Edgar Lungu.

“When you look at the National Dialogue Act, it provided for how a Chairperson was to be appointed. The President appointed him and the forum itself ratified. So if there was anything about the Chairperson that the people were not happy about, the forum had the powers to reject him. Besides that, the two other chairpersons were actually elected by the forum itself. The secretary was appointed by the Secretary to Cabinet. So clearly, when you look at the roles these people were playing, it wouldn’t give PF an advantage if someone said ‘this person was close to the PF’. Your role in the forum as chairperson in these deliberations were life. So what advantage could the chairperson give to one party or the other than to regulate the meeting itself? For me I think that argument is neither here nor there, and what we had in Prof Mwanalushi was a professional who handled very fairly, objectively and I think everybody else was happy,” said Mundubile.