Friday, July 16, 2010

Pact Deadlock Continues

Pact Deadlock Continues
By George Chellah and Chibaula Silwamba
Fri 16 July 2010, 04:02 CAT

THE PF and UPND Pact on Wednesday failed for the second time to resolve the Kaoma Central and Chadiza local government by-election crisis. And former Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Fackson Shamenda said the pact presidency should be tied to political parties and not individuals.

The working group comprising members from both political parties met again in an attempt to resolve the matter but they failed.

There are suggestions within the working group to have the matter referred to the Joint National Council (JNC) because it is highly unlikely that the working group would break the standoff.

The JNC is a superior organ to the working group and pact leaders Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema are usually in attendance when the meetings are called.

PF spokesperson Given Lubinda yesterday confirmed the working group meeting.

“The meeting continues today,” Lubinda said.

Asked about the plans to refer the matter to the JNC, Lubinda responded: “I don’t know about that. Who told you? It’s a very protracted negotiation. We are talking about a very significant issue here. It’s not like sharing chitumbuwa. This is a very important matter. That’s why it has protracted.”

He refused to accept that they had failed to resolve the matter.

“The working group is continuing to meet today Thursday. We haven’t failed, people can’t continue to discuss unless they are making progress and we are making progress,” Lubinda said. “We are pursuing on coming to a consensus on the matter to an agreed position, which will be in the interest of both parties and ultimately, the interest of all Zambians who support the idea of the pact.”

He said had the working group come to a deadlock, they would not have continued to discuss the matter.

“The working group is still handling it, when the working group reaches a consensus that we are failing to agree then it will be referred to the JNC,” Lubinda said. “If the JNC doesn’t agree then we will seek the assistance of others if need be. It is not correct to say we have failed because that implies reaching a dead end and we haven’t reached a dead end yet that’s why we are meeting.”

UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma could not be reached for comment by press time.
On Monday, the working group met but failed to resolve the matter.

During the meeting, there were suggestions to have PF withdraw its candidate in Kaoma central and UPND to do the same in Chadiza.

But Shamenda said the pact should be viewed beyond PF leader Michael Sata and UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema.

“Suppose and God forbid, suppose one of the leaders drops dead today what happens? There will be confusion in the pact. The pact presidency should be tied to a political party and not an individual,” Shamenda said. “Political parties should be the ones to float candidates. And there could even be another person who is not involved in politics today, they can come forward and say ‘supposed you tried me all these quarrels will finish’.

“This idea of tying the presidency to individuals is very undemocratic. We should be looking more at political parties other than looking at a person.”

He insisted that political parties should float the name of the candidate they wanted to field.

“Thereafter, you do the negotiations. So what I am saying is that the pact presidency should not be limited to the two leaders. The net for the presidency should be cast wide,” he said.

He stressed the need for the pact to consolidate itself and the leadership to look at the wider picture.

“What’s important is to look at where our country is moving to. In order for the pact to succeed or any opposition, which wants to provide the necessary leadership what’s important is to look at not what I can get out of it as an individual leader,” Shamenda said. “In order for the pact to succeed what is important is that they need to put up a strong consolidated team, which will be superintending the activities of the pact itself. So that they should be able to carry out the postmortem and not solving issues like a jigsaw puzzle. If they look at it from the approach of saying it worked in the British government, the scenario is different.”

Shamenda said the leaders should speak with one voice.

And in an interview on Wednesday, Hichilema said there was no need for the UPND and PF to break up.

“Nobody should break the pact on Chadiza and Kaoma unless they never meant well to go into the pact, unless they were looking for a window of opportunity and they found it,” Hichilema said. “From UPND side there will be people who will talk, they are individuals, but the way we make decisions in the UPND, the issue of breaking the pact does not arise, what arises is an opportunity out of a problem to solve this problem then learn the lessons and move forward.”

He said the incidence in Kaoma and Chadiza wards, where the UPND and PF fielded different candidates contrary to their agreement not to compete against each other, was an anomaly.

“It’s good it happened now because it gives us an opportunity to clean up various areas that we need to tighten up in terms of our procedures and our guidelines. I still stand by what I said earlier and I take no concern about what others have said because that is the way I interpret things,” he said. “My view is to look at the bigger picture and to say in a marriage you will have issues with your partner, wife or husband, but you don’t start threatening divorce because you have an issue. The positive mind doesn’t work like that. A negative mind works like that but a positive mind works by saying, ‘ha, madam or my colleague let us deal with this problem’. That is the approach that I take.”

On threats by some Zambians that they would not vote in next year’s elections if the PF-UPND Pact crumbles, Hichilema said pact supporters were entitled to take such decisions but urged them to give their leaders chance to resolve the minor problems.

“Members of the public are correct because it means that they see the pact as the only viable option at the moment. If it wasn’t a UPND-PF Pact, it will have to be another pact of the opposition,” Hichilema said. “That is the only way you can take out an African government, not just the MMD government, because of other issues like corruption in the electoral process, abuse of public resources in the electoral process. This is why Zambians are concerned and I share their concern.”

He said the pact must give Zambians the confidence in it because they advocated its formation.

He observed that even in 1991, there was a collection of various interest groups that backed the MMD to win against UNIP.

On the pact presidential candidate and demands by some people in Southern Province that he must be the candidate and counter-demands from Luapula and Northern provinces that Sata should lead the pact, Hichilema said Zambia was bigger than the three provinces.

“We need to be concerned about the greater majority of the people of Zambia. What do they want? Why are they worried about the pact? Why are the people concerned about the pact breaking up? It’s because they know that the MMD has not delivered what the people want and they are looking for an alternative and they see the pact as an alternative. That is a good thing in itself,” Hichilema said.

He said the demands of people in Lupaula, Southern and Northern provinces must be taken into account in a holistic manner in line with what the Zambians in all the nine provinces need.

“The issue of the candidate, can you imagine, if we rush to the presidency when we are having issues with a ward by-election, can you imagine that,” Hichilema said. “We need to take our assignments out of the media and out of the public arena and deal with the issues in privacy. That is my honest opinion but I am not too concerned about whose opinion is different from mine because they are entitled to their opinion but eventually we must seek consensus.”

Hichilema said PF secretary general Wynter Kabimba knows that the PF-UPND working group did not meet to agree on the Kaoma and Chadiza wards elections.

“I chose to ignore Wynter’s reaction to my statement and I think that is what management should be. My statement was not to provoke a reaction from a partner; it was meant to explain the situation to the public outside the pact partners because those who are in the pact partnership know exactly what went on and what went on wrongly and it’s not correct for us to debate in the way that article was angled,” Hichilema said. “Wynter Kabimba is a member of the working group and he knows that they never met, that they never took the decision on Chadiza, Kaoma, Mulwa ward in Kaoma and Choongo East in Bweengwa constituency although the ECZ withdrew Choongo East almost in the last minute.

However, he said the working group was the right platform and hoped it would resolve the misunderstandings.

Hichilema maintained that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) had caused the confusion in the selection of candidates in the two wards.

He said the ECZ announced the seats a few days before nomination leading to the working group not meeting to agree on how the PF-UPND was to vie for them.

Hichilema said the working group was meeting this week and expressed optimism that it would find the solution to what happened in Kaoma and Chadiza.

Hichilema said the PF-UPND Pact should take the debate about its challenges out of the media.

“Let us leave the working group to meet without weights hovering around them as they deliberate because of the statements we are all issuing, the differences that we are all issuing,” said Hichilema.

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