UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE
Edition: #32 23 December 1997
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INTER-PARTY DIALOGUE EASES OFF POLITICAL TENSION IN WAKE OF COUP ATTEMPT
Within weeks of a failed military coup, political parties in Zambia have established an unprecedented rapport amongst themselves.Before the October 28 attempted military take over of government, the political parties largely offered lip-service to calls for political dialogue which is generally being craved as a means of easing political tension in the country.But when government called for inter-party talks soon after the coup attempt, the reponse was over-whelming.
Over 30 parties sent representatives to a preparatory meeting to set an agenda for a meeting of party presidents.All major parties, including the main opposition party UNIP were represented.Another key party, the Zambia Democratic Congress (ZDC), whose president Dean Mung'omba has been arrested in connection with the attempted coup, sent two opposing delegations.It had to take the ruling of the preparatory committee co-chairman Michael Sata to decide on which of the two was the eligible delegation.
Until now, the parties have failed to agree to even begin to talk or set an agenda.The last major attempt was just before the November 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections.The effort ended in a furore with the MMD delegation walking out of a scheduled meeting after other delegates apparently refused to acknowledge the arrival of President Chiluba into the conference room by standing-up.
Since then, virtually all sides have been calling for dialogue but not until now have there been positive developments on the ground.Two days of deliberations by secretaries of the respective parties, have produced a 26-point agenda ranging from a proposal to involve traditional rulers in governance to a call for a review of the constitution on qualifications for a presidential candidate.
The current constitution, amended last year, bars anyone whose parents were not born in Zambia from contensting the presidency.UNIP, whose president, Kenneth Kaunda is disqualified by this constitutional clause, has been pressing for its amendment.
The cordial atmosphere in which the parties have agreed on an agenda has attracted wide praise from various sectors of the Zambian social and political environment.The church which brokered previous attempts at bringing the parties together, has said that the fact that the parties can draw amicable conclusions was a positive sign for the country.Influential archbishop John Mambo has said, however, that the church will nonetheless remain on stand by in case it is needed to lend a hand in ensuring that the talks continue on a smooth path.
The donor community has also been cheered by the positive signs of parties agreeing to settle their differences through dialogue.The United States says that the progress was a landmark and hopes for more positive developments.US Embassy assistant public affairs officer in Lusaka James Welch says both the ruling MMD and other opposition parties deserve praise.
Not all, however, been rosy in these preparations.Some independent members of parliament contend that it is unfair for them to be left out of the talks. They are representatives of 10 parliamentary constituencies.They argue that unlike some political parties which exist only on paper, they (Independent MPs), have proven popularity and it would have only been logical and fair for them to be invited for the talks. Independent MPs Robert Sichinga and Ms Charity Mwansa said it was unacceptable for government to leave the 10 independent MPs out of the talks because they were part of the Zambian political scenario.But Sata, the MMD national secretary and co-chairman of the preparatory meeting, says the meeting was specifically for political parties.
More hurdles are bound to be met before January 10, when at least 17 presidents of the represented parties are scheduled to meet and discuss the provided agenda.Although UNIP has registered its president's name (Kenneth Kaunda) as their envoy, there are growing doubts that he will be available. Kaunda has been out of the country since mid-October and he is reportedly now afraid of returning to Zambia for fear of being arrested on suspicion of being involved in the failed coup attempt.Kaunda's press aide says the party leader will be available, but UNIP has also submitted the name of the party vice-president, Inyambo Yeta, as a possible representative.
The ZDC is also most unlikely to be represented by its president Dean Mung'omba who is detained in connection with the coup attempt.Another influential, if only vocal, leader Dr Roger Chongwe is also scared of returning to Zambia for fear of being arrested over the coup attempt.Dr Chongwe was out of the country on the day the attempt to over-throw the government was made and he has since decided not to return.He has moved to Australia, the home of his wife.Chongwe is the president of the Liberal Progressive Front and is chairman of a loose alliance of some opposition political parties which include UNIP.
How much influence the meeting of presidents will have on matters like constitutional changes remains to be seen.It is, however, certain that the ruling MMD has the advantage point as the opposition is weak.With an overwhelming majority of 125 of the 150 MPs in parliament, the MMD can go to the talks with peace of mind, happy that the recent attempted military coup has only strengthened Zambia's fledgling democracy.
1.POLITICAL LEADERS REMAIN IN EXILE
Some political leaders, including Kenneth Kaunda of UNIP, have stayed away from the country in fear of being arrested in connection with the October 28 attempted military coup.Kaunda has been out of the country since mid-October with UNIP officials giving contradictory statements on whether or not he would return to Zambia.His press aide Muhabi Lungu says Kaunda will return soon after completing his international programme that has taken him to Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Europe.But UNIP publicity secretary Bwendo Mulengela said Kaunda will return only if the government can guarantee that he would not be arrested.
Liberal Progressive Front leader Dr Roger Chongwe has also stayed out of the country since the attempted coup and he too has declined to return unless his safety is guranteed.And Zambia Democatic Congress deputy national secretary Aswell Banda fled the country soon after his party president Dean Mung'omba was arrested in connection with the coup attempt.Banda is said to be in Zimbabwe.
President Chiluba has said, however, that he cannot grant amnesty to anyone because that eould be going against the process of law.He said it was up to the police to decide on whether or not to arrest anyone.
2.SUSPECTED COUP PLOTTER GETS MEDICAL HELP
The suspected leader of the October 28 attempted coup plot, Captain Steven Lungu was recently hospitalised at a public hospital for treament of malaria. Capt. Lungu, alias, Captain Solo, was hospitalised for three days at a hospital in Zambia's second city, Kitwe, under tight police security.
Zambians woke on October 28 to a radio announcement from Captain Lungu saying that the military had taken over and that politics was banned.He and several other rebel soldiers controlled the state-owned radio station for four hours before loyal soldiers crushed the attempted military take-over.
3.SUPREME COURT REJECTS ADJOURNMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL PETITION
The supreme court has dismissed an application by petitioners seeking an adjournament of a case petitioning President Chiluba's eligibility for the office of president.The petitioners were seeking an adjournemnt until the current state of emergency is lifted.
Chief Justice Mathew Ngulube has ruled that the case will go on as the matter had nothing to do with the State of Emergency declared by president Chiluba after the foiled military coup of October 28.
4. FUEL SHORTAGES PERSIST
A fuel shortage that hit the capital city, Lusaka, has spread to other parts of the country leaving motorists on long routes stranded in rural areas. Private transport operators of buses and taxis fear that the shortage could be a ploy by the supplier of petroleum products, Zambia National Oil Company (ZNOC), to increase prices of fuel. ZNOC has denied the allegations and maintained that the shortages were due to hoarding by some gas stations and individuals.
TAZAMA, the primary supplier of crude oil, has also maintained that the shortages were a result of poor distribution. Robert Kakumbi maintained that TAZAMA was pumping enough crude oil to the Indeni Petroleum Refinery in Ndola from Dar-es-Salaam, in Tanzania, and at the normal rate.
5.STATE SLASHES PRICES OF HOUSES, EXTENDS PAYMENT PERIOD
President Chiluba has decided to slash prices of council houses in Lusaka from as high as K1.6 million to K400,000 because the structures are dilapilated in most cases and need extensive rehabilitation.
On a secret tour of council houses in the capital city, the president advised sitting tenants who had paid K400,000 of the K1.6 million price to 'forget' about the balance and treat the houses as theirs. Chiluba accused council officialsof charging exorbitant prices for dilapitated houses.
In a related move, the Government has also extended the sale period of council houses by another 18 months. This follows complaints by sitting tenants that they could not afford to clear the arrears in the initial 18 months period.
6.UNIVERSITY IN ENROLMENT DILEMMA
The University of Zambia (UNZA) faces a dilemma on how to ensure that an extra 1,000 students are enrolled in the 1997/98 acdemic year to make up for the lost opportunity when the institution was closed for 8 months following student unrest.
A task force has already been set up to work out modalities of ensuring that apart from the yearly 1,000 intake, an extra 1,000 would also be catered for. UNZA acting vice-chancellor Professor Mutale Chanda has warned that unless a solution is found, pupils who finished their grade 12 this year would have to wait two years to enter the institution.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Tue, 23 Dec 1997 20:11:22 +0100 Subject: ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE #32 Message-ID: <email@example.com>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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