ALL the 59 UPND members of Parliament boycotted the official opening of the National Assembly to protest what they claimed to massive violation of human rights, media harassment and dictatorial tendencies by president Edgar Lungu.
The UPND MPs who met at their party secretariat on Thursday resolved to boycott the opening of Parliament because they had rejected the outcome of the results of the last general elections and had declared they would not recognise President Lungu as the legitimately elected Head of State.
They claimed that President Lungu and the governing party with the assistance of the police had embarked on brutalising all political opponents and that the UPND had been the main target.
In a communiqué signed by all the MPs, the Parliamentarians accused President Lungu and the PF of having embarked on what they called a dictatorial governance model worse than those of the pre-1990 one party State.
But former Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande and the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) have described the action by the UPND as childish, unreasonable and logically jaundiced. The UPND Parliamentarians claimed that there were numerous atrocities and human rights violations that according to them had manifested post the August general elections which the opposition party disputed and has continued to do so even after the Constitutional Court had thrown out their petition.
The MPs said it was their belief that President Lungu’s win was allegedly engineered and manipulated by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and eventually the three Constitutional Court Judges.
“In Zambia today, the freedom of the press has been grossly violated and we have seen rampant harassment and clamping down on media houses that to not sign the PF songs. E.g, The Post, Komboni Radio, Itezhi-Tezhi Radio and Muvi TV and the Zambian Watchdog that they broadcast hate speech when the opposite is true that the ZNBC has been instrumental tool by the PF in broadcasting propaganda, ridicule, and hate speech targeted at the opposition.
In view of the foregoing, just like the dove refused to be part of the inauguration, we the undersigned resolved that we will not sit in the people’s assembly to listen to a dictator and give him legitimacy, while thousands of our members are in prisons” read part of the communiqué.
But Mr Pande who is former MMD Kasempa member of Parliament said the UPND should consider permanently staying away from the current session of the National Assembly after boycotting its official opening by President Edgar Lungu yesterday.
Mr Pande said it was childish and totally unreasonable for the UPND to have elected to boycott the official opening of Parliament and wondered whether the opposition political party would return to Parliament with the commencement of official business next week.
Mr Pande said he could not understand the logic of the UPND to boycott the official opening of Parliament and advised that the opposition political party should consider going to the drawing board to chart its way forward before the 2021 general elections.He said the reasons given by the UPND for boycotting the official opening of Parliament were ‘‘totally unreasonable, vexatious, politically jaundiced and an act of childishness’’.
Mr Pande said the UPND risked becoming irrelevant in Zambia’s political dispensation because most of its sympathisers would soon stop paying attention to their continued cries of alleged rigged elections.He wondered if the presence of the UPND would be legitimate following their decision to refuse to recognise the official opening of Parliament, stating that Zambians did not like political leaders whose actions were acrimonious against a governing political party.
“It is shocking that the UPND decided to boycott the official opening of Parliament yesterday but it will be interesting to see if they will return to the House after normal business resumes. Since they have boycotted the official opening, they have declared that they do not recognise this session of Parliament and should, therefore, never return to the House because their participation in the debates would be illegitimate,” Mr Pande said.
And the FDD said it was unacceptable for the UPND to have shunned the opening of Parliament by President Lungu because such an act was not going to address their grievances.
FDD spokesperson Antonio Mwanza said the UPND had effectively rendered itself irrelevant in the country’s political and democratic dispensation as the business of the House was going to commence and continue even with their absence in Parliament.
“It is trifling to ponder that the role of the opposition is to vilify President Lungu and his Government. The opposition has to provide constructive criticism, checks and balances and alternative policy direction. Boycotts are an ineffective way of addressing grievances as Parliament will continue its business even in their absence and there is nothing they have achieved by boycotting the opening of Parliament,” Mr Mwanza said.