The Oasis Forum on Wednesday demanded that journalists be ejected from a meeting to discuss the constitution-making process with justice minister Wynter Kabimba.
But Kabimba insisted that journalists attend because their absence would cause misrepresentation and distortion of facts discussed between the two parties.
At this point, Oasis Forum chairperson Suzanne Matale pleaded with Kabimba that the meeting proceed without journalists as they needed to dialogue in confidence.
Before Kabimba could respond, Zambia Episcopal Conference spokesperson Fr Cleophas Lungu chipped in, saying they sought a private meeting in the interest of confidentiality.
Fr Lungu said they were taken aback to find journalists at the ministry.
After further debate, Matale explained that insinuations that the Oasis Forum was part of online media were not true.
“It’s unfair to insinuate that we are going to feed the public out of this because we are credible organisations. We are not part and parcel of misinformation in the media. I want to insist that we don’t play that game,” Rev Matale said.
But Kabimba said there was no inclusion of a private meeting in their request letter for a meeting.
“My considered view is that these are topics of national interest, which must be covered by the media. Many a time, these issues are of great public interest to the citizens of this country and this (constitution) topic impacts on Zambia’s image internationally and I am of the view myself that we can’t keep on exchanging rancour and apportioning blame to each other through the media. I thought an engagement like this could be the best and because of that I still insist that the media be here, but if you insist, I will buy your viewpoint. We’ve no reason as government to hide anything from anybody. We are running government in the interest of the people so it’s important through this meeting that you air out your views,” Kabimba said.
“We don’t want these issues to be misrepresented or distorted in the online media. My understanding when I looked at the topical areas presented… that’s why I insisted through the PS that we’ve a clarity and well-spelt agenda so that I apply my mind to it. If you really wanted a confidential meeting, then sorry I didn’t understand your letter,” he said.
Shortly after Kabimba spoke, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza said: “It will be difficult to chase the media because that will be another story.”
Kabimba said the insistence by some stakeholders that the government shouldn’t be part of the constitution-making process was unreasonable.
He said democratically the government was representing the interest of the majority Zambians.
“So to suggest that we be sidelined from representing them smacks with a lot of suspicion on our part. We hear this argument peddled by many stakeholders including the Oasis Forum that we should be bystanders, we should have nothing to with the constitution, that as a state we should be in limbo. The insinuation that we in government are steeped into self-preservation to perpetuate our stay in power, that’s wrong. The argument that government be bystanders is causing a lot of suspicion. If you want my honest view today, that’s it. There’s a perception that the state can contaminate the constitution-making process,” Kabimba said.
Kabimba said Cabinet would establish whether the technical committee complied with its terms of reference.
And Kabimba says the view of government was that the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Act was not consonant with the current democratic principles.
Kabimba said NGOs needed to have an umbrella organisation that would regulate them.
“It’s time that NGOs are regulated. The same democracy that they want to see in political parties, the transparency and accountability they want to see in political parties is what we want to see in NGOs. Are we wrong on that position? No! If the NGOs are representing the people, they must be subjected to regulations,” Kabimba said.
Kabimba the government meant well for both the Church and NGOs that was why they were provided for in the PF manifesto.
He said the provision of a chapter for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the manifesto was not an afterthought.
Kabimba also said there were provisions in the Public Order Act that needed to be amended.
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