With support of NIMD, Zambia’s political parties founded the Zambian Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID). Instrumental in creating consensus and raising public awareness on the constitutional review process, the programme also facilitates acountability empowering the rank-and-file to hold their leaders politically and financially accountable.
Zambian political parties reach an acceptable level of consensus
In order to reach this objective, ZCID organised regional programmes in the provinces bringing together party members and leaders at provincial and district levels to interact and discuss the contents of the draft constitution. Bringing together political parties at the regional level proved a very good strategy to increase the outreach of the constitutional issues. The regional platforms reaffirmed the parties’ belief that unity in diversity among political parties is possible in Zambia and each platform issued communiqués reflecting multiparty consensus on key issues at the end of each platform, which were widely covered in the media. Furthermore, the platforms raised the profile of the constitutional debate among the citizenry. The political party members on the ground were through the platforms involved in the NCC debates and ‘felt they were conducting mini NCCs.
Improved public understanding of the role of political dialogue
ZCID initiated several activities in 2008 to enhance the public understanding of the role of the ZCID in support of political dialogue. These initiatives focused on informing civil society organisations on ZCID’s work and seek for cooperation, involving constituencies in the work of ZCID in the context of the NCC process and emphasizing in the media and in the regions that ZCID is a neutral platform for political dialogue. Due to these activities, the criticism that ZCID was government dominated has in many cases positively changed.
Public better informed about the position of ZCID
Political parties in Zambia’s democratic consolidation process often failed to fulfil their role as actors responsible for connecting government with society. ZCID has supported a few initiatives in the context of the NCC process in 2008, to improve the relation between parties and citizens and to better inform citizens on the importance of the NCC process and the role of ZCID in this. Examples of these initiatives are the workshop for civil society and political parties (see objective 3) and the involvement of constituencies through regional debates.
Women and youth participate actively in policy-making of the parliamentary political parties.
In all programmes organised in 2008, women were key participants and political parties were encouraged by the ZCID to include women in the delegations. For example, the visit to Malawi counted 50% women and during the regional debates a percentage of 30-40% of the participants were women. Also the sub-committees which have been established in the ZCID Board consist for 50% of women. Furthermore, ZCID has been working with the Zambia National Women’s Lobby to host a national women’s rights conference as a joint venture. Proposals have been developed and are being circulated. The actual implementation of this activity is foreseen for July 2009. The immediate result of this activity was enhanced collaboration between ZCID and the women’s organisations including among others the National Council for Catholic Women (NCCW) and the Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL).
Improved communication with the rural base membership
All eight political parties which received bilateral support in 2008, have implemented activities to improve communication with the rural membership. FDD and NDF for example held leadership meetings for members at national, provincial, district, constituency, ward, branch and section levels and held discussions and consultations on how to make the party effective and improve on the cohesion within the party. The PF and UNIP in this regard held capacity building workshops in the provinces facilitated by party experts on themes such as the party constitution and party structure. Guidelines on conducting elections at Section, Branch, Ward, Constituency, District and Provincial levels were provided to all participating party members, as well as the party manifestoes. MMD and ULP focused on development of effective systems of political participation of provincial levels, increase the knowledge base of the rural base leadership on the contents of the draft Republican Constitution.
Regional cooperation and knowledge exchange improved
A small group of six Zambian chairpersons from ruling and opposition parties (3 male and 3 female politicians) have participated in a ESARP conference which took place in Malawi in early March 2008. The aim of the conference was to exchange regional knowledge and experience on the functioning and management of political parties in East and Southern Africa. The conference successfully fostered cooperation and knowledge exchange between the Zambian politicians and their colleagues from Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya. It was devoted largely to introspection by political parties into their own internal processes and practices, comparing them against fundamental principles of democracy.
Networking and knowledge sharing with political parties in the ESARP region improved
In this context, the conference, among other things, critically reflected, examined and shared experiences on the strengthening of internal party democracy, models of (public) funding of political parties, building and management of pre-and post elections coalitions and floor crossing. These issues fed well into the context of national reform in Zambia. As part the learning from each other and learning together, a basic principle that underpins ESARP, the conference participants also undertook a deep reflection on the December 2007 Elections in Kenya and its aftermath as well as the developments in Zimbabwe in the run up towards the March 29 2008 general elections with the view of drawing lessons for the region. The two case studies clearly demonstrated there are areas which require further attention, such as democratic constitutional reforms, which is applicable on the Zambia context as well.
Relations between political and civil society improved
Relations between political and civil society are characterized by a relatively high level of distrust in Zambia. The constitutional review process is one of the domains where this tensions was visible in 2008. Many NGOs consequently follow the current reform process with great suspicion and have decided to boycott the process. But, it is important to the opposition parties that the current reform process is backed by NGOs, in particular by the Catholic Church, as their support is also required to lend legitimacy to the entire exercise.
In this context, relating to key CSOs is of crucial importance to ZCID and has been an important objective in 2008. Although ZCID had to operate in a difficult context whereby some CSOs working in the area seem to consider the institute as a competitor, 2008 has seen some positive developments. ZCID has made important steps by formulating a joint civic education programme on constitutional issues together with a dozen of CSOs, including members of the Oasis Forum. This programme is planned to start early 2009 and is expected to contribute to confidence building mechanisms. Cooperation between political parties and NGOs to design civic education programmes on the constitutional review process could ameliorate relations and be a starting point for enhanced dialogue between NGOs and parties.