Grand Coalition demands government clarity on Referendum for adoption of Expanded Bill of Rights
Lusaka, 2nd February 2016: The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People Driven Constitution demands that the PF Government makes an authoritative statement on when Zambia would hold a referendum for the adoption of the expanded Bill of Rights contained in the October 2014 final draft Constitution.
The government recently indicated that a referendum for the adoption of an expanded Bill of Rights in the Constitution will be held in October 2016. The GC welcomes this announcement because this has been our demand that the referendum is delinked from the political partisan election for President, Members of Parliament and local government councillors.
This date for holding the referendum for the Bill of Rights was revealed when Attorney General Likando Kalaluka appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Friday 22nd January 2016 in Geneva. During Zambia’s review of her combined second, third and fourth review on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child; Mr Kalaluka – who was leading a delegation of government officials — told the UN that “the Bill of Rights could only be amended through a referendum. Such a referendum would only be arranged in October 2016”.
The Grand Coalition notes that this announcement, although progressive, requires clarity and confirmation because this is a fundamental departure from the PF government’s initial roadmap and pronouncements including on the floor of the National Assembly to hold the referendum alongside the 2016 tripartite elections which according to the amended Constitution of 5th January 2016 are supposed to be held on 11th August 2016. Of course Zambians are now used to the PF flip-flopping and changing their position on issues of national importance, but we cannot allow them to politick with the referendum.
The Grand Coalition reiterates its position that the 2016 amended constitution cannot be regarded as a people driven constitution without an expanded Bill of Rights. The current Bill of Rights enacted in 1963 and amended in 1996 is not adequate to limit excessive state powers, guarantee political, social, economic and cultural rights for the improvement of citizens’ wellbeing and for the promotion of fundamental liberties and freedoms of ordinary citizens. The referendum is also the only way that the Constitution will truly become people-driven as it is the only way in which us the people of Zambia can give unto ourselves a people driven Constitution and not the Executive Amended Constitution that President Edgar Lungu assented to on 5th January 2016.
Now that the referendum is set for October 2016, the Grand Coalition is calling on the PF government to engage stakeholders and commence preparations including public awareness campaigns for a successful referendum. We hope that inconsistencies hitherto shamelessly displayed by the PF regime regarding the constitution making process will not be repeated as the nation heads to a referendum in October 2016. On our part, it is Aluta Continua until the expanded Bill of Rights is adopted through a national referendum.
Vice Chairperson – Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People Driven Constitution