THE United Party for National Development (UPND) plans to meet soon to look at the overtures being made by Catholic bishops to help initiate dialogue between its incarcerated leader, Hakainde Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu.
In a terse response to a query from the Sunday Times about the UPND’s position on Friday’s decision by Mr Lungu to allow the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) to meet Mr Hichilema in efforts to help defuse levels of political tension in the country, the party’s legal affairs chairperson Jack Mwiimbu said yesterday a meeting was being planned to discuss the matter.
“We will meet soon as a party,” he said.
And when contacted for comment UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma declined to comment on the matter.
A 14-man delegation of the ZCCB met with President Lungu on Friday to discuss a wide range of issues and underscored their commitments to working with the Government for the good of the nation.
They offered to mediate between Mr Lungu and Mr Hichilema and encouraged the President to seriously consider engaging in a genuine face-to-face dialogue with the UPND leader and asked the Head of State to help facilitate their meeting with the opposition leader, which request was granted.
Mr Hichilema has been in prison since April this year having been charged with treason arising out of an incident that happened in Mongu when the UPND leader’s convoy taking him to the Kuomboka ceremony was deemed to have obstructed the presidential cavalcade which was heading in the same direction.
Meanwhile, some political parties and civil society organisations have commended the Church for facilitating efforts of reconciliation and dialogue between government and incarcerated United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema.
Speaking in separate interviews the opposition political parties and the civil society said the effort being made to foster dialogue are a step in the right direction.
New Congress Party president Peter Chanda said his party commends the role the church has continued to play over the past years in promoting national peace and unity.
“The Church has always given the country direction and guidance in times of difficulty. As New Congress Party, we pray that the outcome of the meeting of the bishops with the UPND leader will be successful,” he said.
Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) national secretary Raphael Nakachinda said every effort to seek peace and unity for the country must be encouraged.
“As long as there is no abrogation of the laws of the land, the move is very much welcome. Besides, it is the duty of the Church to mediate over such issues,” he said.
United National Independence Party (UNIP) president Tilyenji Kaunda said the need for dialogue and national reconciliation could not have come at a better time than now.
He said Zambia has a good track record of peace and unity in the Southern African region.
“As a party, we would like to commend the Church for the step it has taken in facilitating dialogue and peace-building,” Mr Kaunda said.
Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director Chimfwembe Mweenge has commended President Lungu for meeting with the Catholic bishops at State House.
Mr Mweenge said President Lungu has shown true statesmanship and the value of democracy.
“We commend the President for taking the bold step. We also expect the UPND to support the idea so that the country can be united and focus on development,” he said.
And PF secretary general Davies Mwila says President Lungu has always been willing to meet various stakeholders to discuss matters affecting the nation, COLLINS PHIRI reports in Ndola.
He said the head of State values the peace and democracy Zambians have enjoyed since independence.
He further appealed to the opposition leaders to receive President Lungu’s willingness to dialogue and national unity as being without attached conditions.
Mr Mwila was speaking in an interview in Ndola on Saturday. He said the country is bigger than individuals.
Mr Mwila is on the Copperbelt for a two-day party mobilisation programme.