NDF bill a mischief – CSOs

Ten civil society organisations and two individuals say it is ironic that the national dialogue bill seeks to cure mischiefs when it is a mischief in itself.

The government is in the process of establishing a National Dialogue Forum (NDF) whose objective, among other things, is be to provide for a national dialogue process to facilitate the Constitution refinement process and regulation of political parties, public order and electoral process reforms.

The NDF would be headed by a chairperson appointed by the Republican President.

The three church mother bodies and the opposition alliance have since rejected the bill.

Addressing journalists in Lusaka yesterday, Zitukule   Consortium executive director Nicholas Phiri, who read a statement on behalf of other organisations and individuals, said the bill would not achieve its intended purposes because “it is a coercive bill.”

Phiri indicated that if the national dialogue bill was passed into law, it would create further mischiefs, deepen tension and divisions in Zambia.

The signatories to the statement are Pamela Chisanga, McDonald Chipenzi, Zitukule Consortium, Zambia Council for Social Development, Action for Community Action, Zambia Civic Education Association, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, PANOS, Non-Governmental Gender Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC), Caritas Zambia, ActionAid Zambia and Chikondi Foundation.

“A dialogue borne out of consensus would objectively address the history of the conflict, analyse how its root causes affect all spheres of a nation and the citizens, identify conflict drivers in particular contexts before adopting strategies for peace building,” Phiri said.

“In this regard, we propose that the national dialogue bill of 2019 must not be regulated by law but be a stand-alone process facilitated by non-State actors from which principles to guide future interactions among different political parties and their respective supporters would be drawn. The bill seeks to cure mischiefs when it is a mischief in itself.”

The CSOs and individuals lamented also that the national dialogue bill criminalised autonomy to exercise civil rights and freedoms, which was a violation of fundamental human rights “by any standards.”

“In Section 17 (1), the bill criminalises an individual’s personal decision not to avail himself or herself when requested to do so by the [National Dialogue] Forum. This provision infringes on an individual’s fundamental civil rights, contrary to the freedoms not only enshrined in our Bill of Rights but also those provided for in both the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on civil and political rights to which Zambia is a State party,” Phiri explained.

They branded the bill as being contrary to constitutionalism.

The national dialogue bill negates the spirit of constitutionalism, “a concept that seeks to limit the powers of the State and its agencies.”

“Unfortunately, this bill seeks to instead strengthen the already all-powerful executive. In addition, Section 9 (1) flies in the face of principles of accountability and transparency,” Phiri said.

“There is absolutely no reason to have any meetings in camera or in private. The red tape of interested public members giving at least two days’ notice before they can be allowed to attend meetings is ultra-vires to constitutionalism.”

And the CSOs and individuals allayed “unwarranted attacks and lies against civil society and civil society actors.”

They added that they noted with deep concern calls, from some PF-aligned voices, for retired Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu to apologise for comments he made regarding the need for serious dialogue and reconciliation, “without which we risk mayhem in 2021.”

“We fully agree with the sentiments by Bishop Mpundu and rested his position as our own position. Archbishop Mpundu owes no person any apology and therefore the calls for him to apologise are totally unfounded and uncalled-for,” said Phiri.

“He simply stated the truth and if any party feels aggrieved and see wrong, let them engage him. As CSOs gathered here, we support and stand with Archbishop Mpundu on this matter.”

Source: The Mast

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