The Economics Association of Zambia (EAZ) has expressed disappointment that the presidential debate which it organised for the aspiring candidates failed to take off.
EAZ president Isaac Ngoma said his institution had only invited four political parties with representation in Parliament but the opposition National Restoration Party (NAREP) petitioned the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to direct the organisers to include its candidate Elias Chipimo to participate in the debate.
Mr. Ngoma said NAREP had also threatened to take legal action over the matter and that it may have prompted ZNBC to withdraw from covering the event despite EAZ having paid for the debate to be televised on ZNBC television.
He further said he was informed that the Patriotic Front candidate Edgar Lungu could not make it for the debate because he was caught up with campaigns in Northern Province.
He also disclosed that the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema withdrew his participation after hearing that Mr. Lungu would not show up and ZNBC’s failure to televise the function.
Mr. Ngoma said it was unfortunate that things had turned up that way because all the four political parties who were invited to participate signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to show their commitment to participate in the debate.
He said the presidential debate had since been postponed to a later date which is yet to be announced noting that EAZ was still committed to ensuring that the event takes place.
And Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) president Nevers Mumba said it was unfortunate that the debate could not proceed.
Dr. Mumba said his programmes had been disturbed as he had to abandon his campaigns in Kalabo in Western Province for him to participate in the debate.
He stated that the debate could have accorded candidates an opportunity to explain to the people what policies they would put in place once elected into office.
And Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president Edith Nawakwi said she was ready for the debate but was disappointed that it could not kick off.
Ms. Nawakwi said it was not the first time that aspiring candidates have shunned presidential debates.
She said the debate should have gone ahead despite ZNBC having failed to televise it because other media houses were available to cover.
She added that there was need to recognise the efforts and commitment of other media institutions in the country than depending on ZNBC.
The four aspiring candidates that were invited to the presidential debate include PF president Edgar Lungu, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, FDD’s Edith Nawakwi and the MMD president Nevers Mumba.