Thursday, February 05, 2009

(DAILY MAIL) Inclusion of opposition vital, says Ronnie

Inclusion of opposition vital, says Ronnie

GOVERNMENT says the inclusion of opposition political party members, party cadres or business persons in presidential delegations for assignments outside the country is not a new phenomenon, nor is it a waste of public resources.

Chief Government spokesperson Lieutenant-General Ronnie Shikapwasha said this had been done by past Presidents to add value to the processes and proceedings of the Zambian delegations.

He said at a press briefing yesterday that the choice of who joined such delegations was a prerogative of the President who determined who would add value to the work at hand.

“The President does not have to report to anyone why he chooses one person or party against another,” he said.

Gen. Shikapwasha said Mr Banda’s inclusion of members of the opposition showed how committed he was to the principle of inclusiveness.

“How else can we as a nation narrow our political differences than finding such platforms as the one the President is using to ensure inclusiveness in national issues?

“It is, therefore, hard to understand why the same people that cry for an inclusive Government should cry foul when President Banda, who considers opposition members as partners in development, asks them to participate in important meetings,” he said.

Gen. Shikapwasha said the President could not discriminate against Zambians on the basis of party membership or the jobs they held in any political party.

He said party cadres were also Zambians and using public funds on them when they added value to Zambian delegations attending important government business was justifiable.

Gen. Shikapwasha said the inclusion of Forum for Democracy and Development president Edith Nawakwi in the Presidential delegation to the 12th Session of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa was not an anomaly, as she was expected to contribute in whatever area the President wanted her to.

“Moreover, giving exposure to Zambians from different walks of life is useful for the country as they will become knowledgeable on different issues,” he said.

Gen. Shikapwasha said Patriotic Front president Michael Sata and Federation of Free Trade Unions in Zambia president Joyce Nonde should not pretend that this practice was a new phenomenon which did not benefit Zambians.

“Mr Sata should not forget that this was the case when he served in the UNIP and MMD governments under former President Frederick Chiluba.

Mr Sata did not object to party cadres being included on official trips abroad when he was national secretary of MMD and Minister without Portfolio.

“In 2000, he included party cadres in a Zambian delegation that attended the Beijing Plus 5 conference at the United Nations,” he said.

Gen. Shikapwasha also said the late President Mwanawasa did the same when need arose for him to include opposition political party members.

President Banda on Tuesday said it was his policy to include members of the opposition, civil society, religious leaders, trade unions and youth groups in his delegations to various international meetings to enable them contribute to Zambia’s international engagements.

President Banda said he would involve all stakeholders, including his opponents, in international meetings which required wide consultations because he wanted Zambians to be united on issues that were above party politics.

“I will utilise the knowledge and skills of all Zambians, regardless of their political affiliations.

Members of the opposition, civil society and religious groups are Zambians who should be encouraged to contribute to the development of the country,” Mr Banda said.

The President said he would use the available knowledge and skills among Zambians regardless of their political affiliations in the spirit of building consensus and unity in line with his declaration to serve the nation above partisan politics.

Mr Banda hoped Zambians would embrace his leadership style of inclusiveness on matters that were beyond partisan politics such as the deliberations on the Union Government at the Africa Union and other similar meetings which required wide consultations.



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