Opposition plan mass demos

The sixteen main opposition political parties have resolved to mount mass pressure on the Patriotic Front (PF) to ensure government proceeds with the constitution making process following President Michael Sata and his administration’s refusal to engage in constructive dialogue.

And the sixteen opposition political parties which met at the MMD secretariat in Lusaka yesterday also expressed deep disquiet over Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini whom they have accused of being partisan in the manner he was handling debates in the House.

The summoning of the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema by Parliament was meant to embarrass the opposition leader as he would be made to appear before his own MPs to exculpate himself.

The 16 opposition political have charged that the quest to have a people driven constitution had been met with immense resistance from the PF government and that there was no option but to mount mass pressure through mass demonstrations across the country.

Briefing the media at the MMD secretariat yesterday, the 16 opposition political parties through Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) President Edith Nawakwi said the parties had written to President Michael Sata asking him to facilitate the simultaneous release of the final draft constitution to both the government and the general public.

She said President Sata and the PF government had neither the desire nor political will whatsoever to deliver to Zambians a people-driven constitution and that it was unfortunate that Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba had chosen to trivialise the process by claiming that the Head of State could not meet the opposition political party leaders because it was unnecessary.

She explained that Mr Kabimba who is PF secretary general had promised that he was going to table the final draft constitution to cabinet for onward action but that there had never been anything tangible despite cabinet having had several meetings including the latest one on Monday this week.

“Our noble quest to have a people-driven constitution has met immense resistance from the PF government hence our conclusion that the government does not want to engage in constructive dialogue on the issue of the constitution making process. We wrote to President Sata seeking audience with him and we also sent him a reminder but there has been no response. This is clear testimony that the PF government is not interested in dialogue on this very important national issue and they have neither the desire nor political will to give us a people-driven constitution. Since government has refused to meet us on the table and dialogue, we have been left with no option but to use mass pressure to ensure that we give ourselves the new people driven constitution,” Ms Nawakwi said.

And Parliament has summoned Mr Msoni for demanding that Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini should resign because he was exhibiting partisan behavior when he gagged opposition MPs from debating the collapsed constitution making process and demanding accountability over  K150 million spent on the constitution.

Parliament has also summoned Mr Hichilema to answer allegations that he directed his MPs to continue with their protest in Parliament over the constitution making process.

But the sixteen opposition political parties have announced that the two leaders would not appear before a compromised Speaker who had exhibited partisan behaviour in the manner he had been making rulings in the House.

Ms Nawakwi stated that the attitude of Dr Matibini towards people’s concerns over the manner he was presiding over Parliament was worrying.

She said Dr Matibini like any other public officer was a servant of the people and was answerable to citizens and not to the PF, the party to which he owed his allegiance adding that the Speaker should understand that he was not above reproach.

Ms Nawakwi said all leaders of the opposition political parties were ready to go to Parliament and get arrested in the House if Dr Matibini was going to insist on having the two opposition leaders appear before the Parliamentary select committee.

“The case in point is the summoning of president Nason Msoni and president Hakainde Hichilema for respectively calling for the resignation of the Speaker and encouraging UPND MPs to continue putting pressure on government to release the final draft constitution. There is nothing criminal in calling for the resignation of the Speaker. There is equally nothing wrong for a political party to instruct its MPs to protest in Parliament. We wish to make it clear to the Speaker that we will not allow him to use his office to intimidate innocent people or to curtail debate on national issues,” Ms Nawakwi said.