By Justin Mupundu
The National ‘Indaba’ is the country’s most anticipated epoch-making event.
But how should the national ‘Indaba’ road-map be drawn-up? Or what should be the process of national dialogue?
President Edgar Lungu, a great statesman, has accepted to dialogue with United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Hakainde Hichilema, and engaged Catholic Bishops, former Nigerian President Gen. Olasuguni Obasanjo, Commonweath Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland and her special envoy Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) Bishops, respectively, to facilitate the process of national dialogue.
President Lungu accepted to dialogue with Hichilema, who is also popularly known as HH, on condition: Recognises him as a duly elected Republican President.
Hichilema, who was recently freed from jail via the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)’s nolle proseque (discontinued) his treason case, has vehemently refused to recognise President Lungu as a duly elected Republican President.
However, composition of mediators’ team before the roadmap is drawn –up must first be considered, pre-conditions discussed, then participants selected.
The National ‘Ndaba’ is not a one-time off event, but a long and tedious process of bringing warying parties on a face -to-face round table dialogue.
But such a task requires mediators, who do not only possess diplomatic, negotiating, communication, analytical skills, empathy and good judgement, but who are also impartial and acceptable to both parties.
Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) President Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu has already exhibited a biased attitude against Lungu.
Therefore, the mediators’ team, apart from ZCCB and Commonwealth Secretary-General’s special envoy Prof.Gambari should also include EFZ’s executive director Pukuta Mwanza and his team, Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) and Independent Churches in Zambia.
The proposed composition of a team of mediators will be impartial and acceptable to both parties.
How then should the National ‘Indaba’ roadmap be drawn- up?
Teams of negotiators, timeframe and the agenda are the pillars of national ‘ndaba’ roadmap.
President Lungu and HH will not immediately engage in a face-to-face dialogue. But they will appoint a team of negotiators on their behalf, respectively.
However, the negotiators will always consult them.
These teams will be assembled from political parties’ chairperson, secretaries, and other senior party members.
The National ‘Indaba’ or dialogue should be concluded by 2020 in readiness for 2021 elections.
The all-stakeholders inclusive dialogue will be a three-legged process: (1) Prepatory work for the National ‘Indaba’ ;( 2) Setting National ‘Indaba’ Agenda; and (3) Adoption of the National ‘Indaba’ resolutions.
The prepatory stage will serve as a stakeholders ‘consultative planning and consensus –building process for holding national dialogue.
Participants will be drawn from all Political parties ,Interest groups, Trade unions, Traditional leaders, Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ),Members of Parliament (MPs),Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs),the Church, the Media and Senior Citizens.
The mediators will brainstorm issues related to the agenda, draw-up the roadmap, share mediatory responsibilities, and address preliminary issues or pre-conditions to dialogue.
Mediators should give deaf ears to voices that would spoil the process and contaminate the talks. But they should lend their ears to the wise advice.
Mediators will also navigate dialogue anchored on the give- and -take principle.
Progress is only achievable via both listening and talking.
Talking does not make sense if no-one is listening. Similarly, there is no need to lend listening ears if no-one is talking.
Both teams of mediators and negotiators must refrain from disclosing details of the on-going talks.
The mediators and negotiators will keep details of the talk a secret until the talks are concluded.
Pre-condition issues will be discussed behind the closed doors: Demands that the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) revisit the 2016 election petition case, and recognition of President Lungu as a duly elected Republican President.
The ConCourt has no legal basis on which it can revisit the 2016 election petition case. It’s a dead and buried issue!
But how does HH dialogue with President Lungu whom he has not recognised as duly elected Republican President?
Is it in his capacity as the governing PF President? Or is it in his capacity as a Republican President?
Once these issues are resolved talks will progress to the next level.
Setting the National ‘Indaba’ agenda will serve as a building block on the foundation of the first stage: Once the main agenda has been set, it will be preceded by the agenda consensus-building process.
The opposition UPND ‘s agenda is to coerce President Lungu to cut his five-year term short ,and call for fresh elections.
But holding elections before 2021 is not possible for two reasons :(1) The on-going National ‘Indaba’ needs time to reach a consensus on the conditions for holding successful polls; and (2) Time and resources to prepare for the polls would not permit.
However, the following idea is a workable agenda: “How 2021 elections could be held? And Any Other Business (AOB).”
The National ‘Indaba’ should at least be concluded by 2020.
The National Indaba should be concluded by 2020 in readiness for 2021 elections: Resolutions on the conditions under which the 2021 elections be adopted as a document dubbed: “The 2021 Elections and Beyond.”
The said document will outline various critical electoral issues for holding transparent, free and fair elections, and how to promote peace, security, unity and intra-party democracy.
But since both PF and UPND have indorsed Lungu and HH as their presidential candidates for the 2021 elections, respectively, then2021 polls should be held under conditions agreed by consensus:
Fresh ideas should be brought into the country’s electoral process or push boundaries of the current thinking and carry lessons that can be replicated in other democracies:
First and foremost, Both President Lungu and HH should enter the 2021 elections as their last presidential contest.
There after no-one should contest presidential elections for more than two consecutive times.
The current majoritarian system of electing a President does not add value to our democracy. It should be repealed and replaced with the Electoral College system: “The President shall be elected in six of the ten provinces with over 50 percent of the vote in each province, and elected together with at least 88 Members of Parliament (80 elected and 8 nominated).”
No –one who has previously contested elections for more than twice in a row shall run for presidency in 2026.
Further, political parties should be regulated as they form the foundation of our multi-party democracy: The most effective way to promote intra-party democracy, make them accountable and transparent in their conduct.
Political parties will be regulated in accordance with Article 60 of the current Constitution.
However, political parties should not be funded by Government .They should be given latitude to solicit for both local and foreign funding.
Nevertheless, post-election events reveal that foreign-funded political parties are a threat to peace and national security: Political parties should then be compelled to disclose their foreign-funding sources, and conditions attached to their funding agreements.
Zambia Intelligence and Security Service (ZISS) Act should be repealed to give it power to monitor political parities’ foreign- funding sources.
More so, some multi-national corporation have schemed to ‘smuggle’ in imperialism in the country.
In short, the country risk surrendering its economic power to the rich -foreign business- empire, whose re-ermeging ‘Scramble for Africa’ movement is spreading tentacles in Africa.
The Supreme Court shall be re-assigned to hear only election petition appeal cases.
The ConCourt shall be relegated to the division of the Supreme Court: Handle constitutional rights cases only and not election petition cases.
The Election Court shall handle the election disputes taking over from the ConCourt.
The voter who votes in the presidential election is the same person who votes for the Member of Parliament, Mayor/Council chairperson and Councillor.
Or the President is elected together with Members of Parliament, Mayors/Council chairpersons and Councillors.
So, the voting pattern at parliamentary, mayoral/Council chairperson, and Council –ward elections represent presidential votes, and reflects presidential voting pattern.
President Lungu and HH will engage in a face- to-face dialogue and append their signatures on the said document, which will be adopted by consensus: “The 2021 Election and Beyond.’’
The issues contained in the document should be addressed by 2020.
This is how the National ‘Indaba’ roadmap should be drawn-up.
The author is a media consultant and political analyst