Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sata pulls out of inter-party dialogue

Sata pulls out of inter-party dialogue
By Brighton Phiri and Bivan Saluseki
Wednesday June 27, 2007 [04:00]

OPPOSITION Patriotic Front (PF) has pulled out of Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID), PF president Michael Sata announced yesterday. Sata also boycotted yesterday's official launch of ZCID after his request to speak during the launch was allegedly blocked by MMD officials.

Sata said President Mwanawasa and other political parties that have gone with him would achieve disaster over the constitution making process. But President Mwanawasa has said that he means business over the agreed roadmap on the constitution making process.

Addressing the press at his residence, Sata said he decided to boycott the function because the programme did not include major political parties such as UPND and PF among the speakers during the occasion.

"If you have seen ZCID today's (yesterday) programme, it is Katele Kalumba, the two representatives from Netherlands, Justice Chomba and Levy Mwanawasa to speak...thereafter all of us must go...where is the dialogue?" asked Sata.

Sata argued that UPND and PF should have been accorded a chance to speak during the official launch of ZCID because under parliamentary democracy, the two parties formed a quorum in the National Assembly without any other political party.
"And if we are to be ignored because Katele Kalumba wants it, we have nothing to do with ZCID," Sata said.

He disclosed that senior PF officials met the delegation from the Netherlands to complain that it would be fruitless for the opposition parties to attend the launch without expressing their views.
Sata disclosed that he demanded another agenda from the Netherlands officials, which would have included UPND and PF presidents as some of the speakers.

"If really we mean business, we don't need to bluff. We are spending taxpayers' money of people of Netherlands and those people want to unite us but we are refusing to unite ourselves," he said.

Sata said it was worthless for PF to attend the launch as spectators.
"We wanted to go there as participants. We didn't want to go there and just listen to President Mwanawasa. PF and UPND must have a say in ZCID and not only Mwanawasa...minus that we are not going and we are withdrawing from ZCID because if we are not regarded as stakeholders in the national dialogue, why should we participate?" he asked. "We have 50 per cent representation in this country...we have 50 per cent of the councillors. Why should we be ignored as inconsequential? We can't go there as MMD cadres."

Sata demanded that ZCID board chairperson should be drawn from the Church instead of Katele Kalumba, as he was an interested party.
He asked political party stakeholders to consider getting back to the 1991 formula of dialogue where a neutral person from the Church chaired the inter-party dialogue.

"We have no shortage of churchmen and women in Zambia. We could have picked Bishop Banda of Northmead Assemblies of God to chair. In 1991 we succeeded because we engaged a neutral person from the church who was independent from political parties.

But Ketele Kalumba's hands are stinking with corruption and rigging. And he has something to hide. Remember he kissed Mwanawasa's shoes to seek his protection," Sata said. "We have been there, but the board under Katele Kalumba has never been sincere because they have always been afraid to bring what they have discussed to us."

As Sata was addressing the press, he received a phone call from one of his senior party officials whom he had sent to Mulungushi International Conference Centre, the venue for ZCID launch, to follow his request to speak.
After the discussion with his official, Sata confirmed that ZCID had rejected his request to speak.

"Well if they have refused for anybody else to talk, then we are not coming. If they have refused anybody else, tell them that PF is out," Sata told his official on the phone.

And Sata said his party would make an appointment with the Oasis Forum to show that they were serious about working with it over the process.

"We are not saying we will hijack what they have started, we will supplement their efforts," Sata said.

He said PF would not take over the Oasis Forum but would regonise it and work side by side over the constitution making process.

He vowed PF would take Oasis Forum's fight inside and outside the National Assembly.
He said his party would recognise Oasis because it had more people and manpower than it.

"We don't want to usurp their power, the PF leadership will work under the leadership of the Oasis Forum. The constitution making can never be a monopoly of political parties," Sata said.
He said President Mwanawasa had no power to dictate the process.

"Levy is stealing the power. Levy has been crawling like a snail from 2003 up to now. Now, why has be gone supersonic all of a sudden? He wants to hoodwink the civil society and others. He has been crawling all along and we will not allow him, we will sort him out," Sata vowed.

He said constitution making was a people's process and that it is people that employed President Mwanawasa.

Sata said President Mwanawasa and others had no capacity to fight Oasis Forum and other civil society organisations.
"Oasis Forum is the people.

They are doing it part-time for the love of the country. A politician has got transport, he has talk time but people in civil society are using their personal resources. They have no interest to serve but Levy and his minions are serving for talk time," Sata said.
"Oasis abandon their families and work to bring a constitution that will reduce poverty and make our hospitals habitable. Why shouldn't they be supported?"
He said politicians in the ZCID were getting K350,000 sitting allowance.

He said while taxpayers in the Netherlands want the people to be liberated, people were misusing the money.
Sata said his party had been looking forward to listening to the people over the constitution making process.

According to MMD sources, a senior ruling party official had directed ZCID to reject Sata's request to speak because he was going to hijack the function.

"Sata wanted to come and address the gathering, but we could not allow him because he is someone who wants to hijack the process," said a senior MMD official.

"We need to be careful with Sata because he wants to show as if he wants the new constitution and yet he just want President Mwanawasa out of State House. We shall not allow that. Sata risks being irrelevant if he continues to behave like this."

When contacted for comment, Kalumba declined to comment saying he needed time to consult other board members before issuing a statement on Sata's boycott.

"It has not yet been brought to my attention. So I need some time to consult my colleagues on the board before I can comment," Kalumba said.
On calls for him to resign as board chairperson, Kalumba refused to comment.

Sata said he was disappointed with the content of President Mwanawasa's draft speech, which was delivered to him by Kalumba.
He said there was no substance in President Mwanawasa's draft speech.

"He is just bluffing. Who doesn't know the historical background of this country? He is trying to run away from what the inter-party dialogue is supposed to do. The inter-party dialogue is supposed to remove the tension. Whoever is supposed to give a keynote address must address issues that are dividing us as a nation. The real issue which is dividing the country is not there is Levy's speech," he said.

Sata said PF did not agree on the communiqué that was released by Kalumba after the last political party presidents' summit.
He said under normal circumstances, after the political parties' representative drafted a communiqué, the presidents should have met and discussed the content of the communiqué to assess whether or not it contained commitments of inter-party dialogue.

"After Levy Mwanawasa spoke, we asked the board to prepare the communiqué. We have never met to examine that communiqué.

They sent the communiqué to State House and Levy Mwanawasa edited it and after editing, until today we have never seen the edited version. We should have met as presidents to look at that communiqué. There is no way we could have signed the communiqué blindly. It should have been distributed to all the party presidents," he said.
Sata said the inter-party dialogue would not deliver the new constitution to the people of Zambia but the people themselves.

"The people of Zambia will bring the new constitution. Dr Kaunda was forced to abandon the referendum on Article 4 when the people of Zambia spoke. It is not this insincere dialogue, which will give us the new constitution. As far we are concerned PF is out of this thing. We shall join forces with Oasis Forum and all serious civil society to mount pressure on Mwanawasa to bring the new constitution through a constituent assembly.

We will use everything at our disposal. We will use our councils and our popularity countrwide to place Mwanawasa under pressure to make him understand that he does not own this country," Sata said.

FDD's Newton Nguni said Sata was supposed to go to the launch but he indicated at the last minute that he would not be part of the programme.
Several of Sata's members trooped out of the centre after they were told that their leader was not coming.

And launching the ZCID at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, President Mwanawasa said the process should be given a chance.
"We have pledged publicly that we are willing to provide the needed leadership as political party leaders. We want to assure our fellow countrymen and women that we will not do anything inconsistent with the Constitution or laws or indeed violate the integrity of our collective word to Zambians that we mean business," he said.

"This will be an inclusive process. It will also be cost-effective. It will honour Zambia and not any political party's individual interests. Fellow Zambians, trust this process and remain engaged."

President Mwanawasa said the quest for peace rode on the back of reason and reason was only made known through dialogue.

"We are united. We are committed. We are determined to succeed. We have a very good reason for this. It is a voice of a school child in Salujinga. It is the sweat of a mother in Luampungu. It is the swollen hand of a farmer tilling the land in Mukuni. It is the daring spirit of the fisherman in Kalobwa. It is the whistling sound of the miner's drill in Konkola and indeed it is the hope lingering on the wandering feet of a street child. The hope and despair embolden us to be leaders.

The courage of our yesterday's freedom fighters, the known and the unsung; engage us into a challenge of leadership," he said.
President Mwanawasa said the world had contradictions.

"A world in which good intentions raise more suspicions than bad ones. We live in a world of virtual reality. Some of our compatriots believe they are in Europe and behave and think likewise. Whatever thought we may advance, as long as it is originating from us, we the native mortals, it never seems to be good enough unless it is foreign," he said.

President Mwanawasa said the leaders had buried their differences.
"We chose to forego our popularity contest for the sake of Zambia. The road ahead may still have some hurdles but the nature of our collective leadership is to surmount any such potholes," he said.
President Mwanawasa said the leaders agreed to give effect to a body through legislation that would sit down to debate the proposed constitution.

Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy executive director Roel von Meijenfeldt said democracy was more than a fight to bring change.
Meijenfeldt said parties appeared to have lost the art of dialogue.
"There should be more than competition for power. It should be more than accommodation," he said.
Meijenfeldt said democracy was also about justice and democracy was two parts of the same coin.

He said political parties had specific responsibilities to engage themselves in how to find answers to problems.
Chairman for the summit of presidents Justice Frederick Chomba said in the past, political parties had been operating as separate and antagonistic entities with agendas, which were not complimentary to one another.

Justice Chomba said circumstances had forced leaders to accept the truism that there was strength in numbers.
He said the leaders would succeed if supported and if people were united.
After the opening, President Mwanawasa left in a Toyota 4x4 instead of the official Mercedes Benz he came in.

The security officials first allowed the Mercedes Benz and other official cars leave, creating a false impression that President Mwanawasa was in his car.

Later, President Mwanawasa emerged and entered the Toyota 4X4 which was without a flag before his security men sped off.

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