The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People Driven Constitution has demanded a clear direction from Government on holding of the a national referendum to adopt the draft expanded Bill of Rights.
In a statement released to the media, Grand Coaltion Chairperson, Sara Longwe, said that he Grand Coalition demanded that , as a matter of priority, an authoritative pronouncement from the President, clearly outlining what the government be made.
Below is the full statement
Grand Coalition Demands Clear Direction on Referendum for Bill of Rights
Lusaka, 12th April 2016:
The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People Driven Constitution has noted, with great concern, the announcement that a national referendum to adopt the draft expanded Bill of Rights will be held alongside the general elections. The Grand Coalition is concerned that this announcement is not backed by clear pronouncements of the practical measures to ensure the success and credibility of this exercise.
The Grand Coalition maintains its principled stance that holding the referendum alongside the general elections is inappropriate for a non-partisan issue like the Bill of Rights because it will be over-shadowed by the highly partisan charged elections. A referendum is a very critical and historical process in any country’s political dispensation that requires ample time for mobilising the citizens to participate from an informed position and its importance should not be sacrificed on expedience such as holding it alongside general elections.
The Grand Coalition therefore demands, as a matter of priority, an authoritative pronouncement from the President, clearly outlining what the government has done or plans to do to seal the loopholes that could be used to discredit the referendum in future. We further demand the following:
1. That the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) issues a statement stating whether the voter registration exercise captured more than 50% of eligible voters to meet the threshold required by Article 79 and taking into consideration the apathy trend.
2. That the government outlines concrete steps with clear timelines for the adoption and enactment of the Bill of Rights, and a legal framework to protect both the content and the process.
3. That the government must publish the Bill of Rights they are subjecting to the referendum.
4. That a national multi stakeholder civic education campaign on the referendum is immediately developed and implemented.
The Grand Coalition further calls on all political parties and civil society to sensitise, engage and mobilise citizens to participate in the national referendum for the expanded Bill of Rights.
The Grand Coalition strongly cautions all politicians, especially those serving in the government, against turning a blind eye to the people’s wishes. It is such disregard for the people’s wishes which brought us to the current state of affairs where the constitution was amended in a piecemeal fashion without an expanded Bill of Rights.
We further wish to remind the government that the delay in holding the referendum to adopt the expanded Bill of Rights is daily negatively impacting on the groups of people such as persons living with disabilities, children, the aged, the youth and women who are usually marginalized in society and whose rights usually go unfulfilled and ignored to their detriment and that of the development of Zambia. The PF government once again has an opportunity to facilitate a referendum in which the people of Zambia will assert their supremacy by adopting the Bill of Rights whose provisions has been articulated by them since the attainment of independence.
We urge all Zambians not to leave the demand for a stand-alone Referendum to non-governmental organizations lest what happened in Parliament towards the end of 2015 and sealed on 5th January 2016 repeats itself. We therefore ask each citizen to ask the government: ‘When is the referendum?’
Grand Coalition Chairperson