Delayed release of proposed Bill of Rights a ploy by PF government

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President Edgar Lungu speaks to NGOCC member of board of trustee Dorothy Hamwele (c) and NGOCC chairperson Sarah Lungwe at State House
President Edgar Lungu speaks to NGOCC member of board of trustee Dorothy Hamwele (c) and NGOCC chairperson Sarah Longwe at State House

The NGOCC has said less than 70 days before the proposed National Referendum is held, the PF Government only released the proposed “Bill of Rights” that is supposed to be subjected to the National Referendum on Monday 30th May 2016. The people of Zambia are not aware of the contents of the proposed “Bill of Rights” that they will be voting for or against.

The NGOCC said the delay in releasing the proposed “Bill of Rights” by the Government of the Republic of Zambia is a deliberate ploy to yet again deprive the people of Zambia an opportunity to have a people driven Constitution that is reflective of the Zambian people’s will and aspirations.

The people of Zambia are not aware of the contents of the proposed “Bill of Rights” that they will be voting for or against.

Speaking at media briefing on behalf of 41 Non Governmental Organisations affiliated to the Council Sarah Longwe said holding the National Referendum together with the General Elections will result into rendering this important constitution making process meaningless and a waste of public resources as it will not achieve the people’s intended purpose.

She said a National Referendum is a critical civic process that transcends any political process especially of a partisan nature as the 2016 General Elections. To use the same venue and personnel to manage both the General Elections and the Referendum will bring confusion and a possible avenue for voting complications as those who do not have voters cards will be allowed into the elections venue.

The different eligibility tests for the National Referendum and General Elections presents unique and new challenges to not only the electorates but also the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

Whereas the National Referendum requires that at least 50% of those eligible to vote do actually take part in the National Referendum, the General Election requires a different test and hence the need not to confuse these two different electoral processes.

Whereas the Central Statistics Office projects the total voting population to be just over 7 million Zambians, the Electoral Commission of Zambia Voters Roll captured only 6 million+ Zambians. Clearly the challenges faced in capturing more voters in the just ended registration exercise will greatly impact on the Referendum voting process given the voter apathy trends in the recent past.

Ms Longwe said due to unprecedented incidences of political violence that the country has experienced in the past two years, the likelihood of voter apathy is very high which may greatly impact on the success of the National Referendum.

The NGOCC has therefore demanded that no referendum on the Bill of Rights and Article 79 should be held alongside the August 11th 2016 General Elections and no repealing and amending of Article 79 of the National Constitution given that the people of Zambia are unaware of this constitutional change and must first be sensitized.

Below is the Full Press release

We the representatives of NGOCC member organisations who met, at the NGOCC secretariat in Lusaka to deliberate on Zambia’s Bill of Rights and the National Referendum process on 27th May 2016,

OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING:
1. Less than 70days before the proposed National Referendum is held, the Government of Zambia only released the proposed “Bill of Rights” that is supposed to be subjected to the National Referendum on Monday 30th May 2016. The people of Zambia are not aware of the contents of the proposed “Bill of Rights” that they will be voting for or against. It is our considered view that the delay in releasing the proposed “Bill of Rights” by the Government of the Republic of Zambia is a deliberate ploy to yet again deprive the people of Zambia an opportunity to bequeath unto themselves a people driven Constitution that is reflective of the Zambian people’s will and aspirations. The “Bill of Rights” has also not yet been simplified and translated into local languages and sign language.
2. With the foregoing, holding the National Referendum together with the General Elections will result into rendering this important constitution making process meaningless and a waste of public resources as it will not achieve the people’s intended purpose. A National Referendum is a critical civic process that transcends any political process especially of a partisan nature as the 2016 General Elections. To use the same venue and personnel to manage both the General Elections and the Referendum will bring confusion and a possible avenue for voting complications as those who do not have voters cards will be allowed into the elections venue.
3. The different eligibility tests for the National Referendum and General Elections presents unique and new challenges to not only the electorates but also the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Whereas the National Referendum requires that at least 50 percent of those eligible to vote do actually take part in the National Referendum, the General Election requires a different test and hence the need not to confuse these two different electoral processes. Whereas the Central Statistics Office projects the total voting population to be just over 7 million Zambians, the Electoral Commission of Zambia Voters Roll captured only 6 million+ Zambians. Clearly the challenges faced in capturing more voters in the just ended registration exercise will greatly impact on the Referendum voting process given the voter apathy trends in the recent past.
4. Due to unprecedented incidences of political violence that the country has experienced in the past two years, the likelihood of voter apathy is very high which may greatly impact on the success of the National Referendum.

RECOGNISE THAT:

1. The Referendum question is not very clear as it proposes two things in one question, it seeks to amend the constitution to enhance the “Bill of Rights” on one hand and to repeal and replace Article 79 of the Constitution of Zambia on the other.

2. The two symbols used in the referendum of the Eye and Ear do not represent the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ answer being sought.

3. Government has not clearly stated what clause should be repealed and what clause should be replaced in Article 79.

4. Article 79 of the Constitution of Zambia which is being referred to in the Referendum Question is the same provision that entrenches the Bill of Rights from being subjected to minority deliberations and/or amendment by Parliament. Our fear is that if this provision is not clearly explained to the people of Zambia, it may bring about discontent among the citizens. It is therefore imperative that the narrative of the said Article 79 is made known in clear terms to Zambian voters on what its contents will be.

WITH THE FORE GOING OBSERVATIONS AND CONCERNS, WE DEMAND THE FOLLOWING:

1. NO REFERENDUM on the Bill of Rights and Article 79 should be held alongside the August 11th 2016 General Elections
2. NO REPEALLING and AMENDING of Article 79 of the National Constitution given that the people of Zambia are unaware of this constitutional change and must first be sensitized.

We further contend that the expanded “Bill of Rights” in the Draft Constitution submitted by the Technical Committee drafting the Zambian Constitution contains the Social Economic and Cultural rights that are pertinent to the needs of the women of Zambia. It also does adequately articulate further rights of women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities in order to create an environment where there is no discrimination and where equality prevails.It is those rights therefore that we the women of Zambia seek to protect in the “Bill of Rights”through a people-driven process.

As an organisation, we have been opposed to the piecemeal amendment of the constitution from the onset as we foresaw the challenges such a process would bring as experienced with the amended constitution. We are equally concerned with how government will deal with the non contentious issues contained in the draft constitution that were not discussed in parliament.
We call upon every well meaning Zambian to join us in calling for the Referendum not be held alongside the General Elections on 11th August 2016.
For/NGOCC
Sara Longwe
CHAIRPERSON

1) Breastfeeding Association of Zambia
2) Council of Churches in Zambia
3) Community Youth Concern
4) Community for Human Development
5) Empowerment of Prisoners Wives and their Children
6) Enviro Green Care Association of Zambia
7) FLAME -Forum for Community Against Hunger and Disease
8) Forum for Africa Women Educationalists in Zambia
9) Guides Association of Zambia
10) Home Economics Association of Zambia
11) Kwasha Mukwenu Women’s Group
12) Lusaka Muslim Women Trust Fund
13) Lusaka West Women Organisation
14) Makeni Ecumenical Centre
15) National Council of Catholic Women
16) National Legal Aid for Women
17) Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia
18) Senior Citizens Association of Zambia
19) Society for Women and AIDS in Zambia
20) Tasintha Programme
21) Waterfalls Rural Women’s Organisation
22) Women For Change
23) Women Entrepreneurs Development Association
24) Women Finance Cooperative Zambia
25) World Day of Prayer
26) Women and Law in Southern Africa
27) Women in Law and Development in Africa
28) Young Women Christian Association Council of Zambia
29) Young Women in Action
30) Zambia Alliance of Women
31) Zambia Association of University Women
32) Zambia Association for Research and Development
33) Zambia Media Women Association
34) Zambia Open Community Schools
35) Zambia National Association of Disabled Women
36) Zambia Nurses Association
37) Zambia National Women’s Lobby
38) Zambia Federation for Women in Business
39) Zambia White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood
40) Zambian Women In Mining
41) Zambia National Traditional Counsellors Association

15 COMMENTS

  1. vote

    What wrong with african lesders kanshi mwebantu?anyway lungu knos zambians dont read ;these pipo are their to enrich themselves

  2. vote

    Instead of sensitizing people about the same they are busy politicking. Ngos should be in the forefront to educate masses about Referendum other than blaming it on the president. HH last year said he was going to have the constitution ready within the first month in office once elected president. Ecl refused to promise lies for the sake of been president and he has given us 60 % of the constitution.

    • vote

      The constitution which has disenfranchised many Zambians can not be seen as delivered. The referenda will do the same if left unchecked. We’re in WANT! Of true leadership.

    • vote

      NGOs and the opposition cannot sensitise Zambians about a referendum that nobody knows anything about. If the architects of this document are too drunk to even file nominations and cannot finish drafting the question then who can comment on the mysterious question?

  3. vote

    Brig Gen Miyanda could do better than you NGOs. He’s been on this issue since 2015. What work do you people do kanshi???

  4. vote

    The NGOs must explain top the people contents of the bill of rights and the proposed changes that complaing about something the which men and women on the streeta do not even understand. If we can hear you complaining we can also hear you explianing. unless the all thing is for the purpose of you getting some funding. So start sensitizing the people for them to understand what is is all about

  5. vote

    The point is why the rush?why mix it with the General election ,when the issue is non political and requires not only voters to vote,like Jehova’s witness.So we want to know what is contained in the bill of rights,if it is true that the president will be the so custodian of traditional Land apart of state land replacing chiefs then we have a reason to worry.

  6. vote

    IF THE DOCUMENT HAS BEEN RELEASED WHY CANT U TAKE THE LEAD TO EDUCATE PEOPLE THAN ALARMING PEOPLE TO RISE AGAINST GOVT.
    THIS CHILONGWE IF NAUSIATING MWE!

  7. vote

    It is a shame that these same NGOs have breakfast with Edgar Lungu. They must come out openly to say they cannot see eye to eye with him since they have seen the deliberate deceit. They must tell the People not to trust him.

    Once they repeal Article 79, we will not know how the Gay rights will creep into our constitution, or elements of Sharia Law will be incorporated ( Lungu has borrowed a lot of Saudi money and will repay in kind). Our Christian Nation declaration will disappear and there will be built a Grand Mosque in Lusaka City centre. Thats how Saudi money is repaid.

    And Lungu and his wife are muslims masqurading as born-again christians. They should be proud of their religion.

  8. vote

    If the Bill of Rights document has been published and the Question has been phrased, what’s the fuss about? Come on, on your toes; use the donor money to sensitize the Zambians. Post the BoR on the Internet so we read it kaili! Yaba this organisation has issues mwandi.
    You have been crying for these issues, kindly thank Chagwa for the constitution; and what have you? Kindly move on Sara Longwe!! I say two months is a lot of time to tell the people of Zambia about this thing. Since the Government has taken the position on this matter, it is too late to complain. Kindly move on from the blame game. Don’t work to discredit this matter like FODEP.

    • vote

      published is not the same thing as “reaching the intended recipient”… Tell the public were it has been published and tell us who has access to the source you’ll cite!

  9. vote

    PLIZ ZAMBIANS, LETS SAY NO TO HOLDING THE ELECTION TOGETHER WITH THE REFERENDUM. THE WHOLE CONSTITUTION WILL NEED TO BE REVISITED . QUALITIES OF A GOOD CONSTITUTION ARE THAT
    1. IT SHOULD BE CLEAR AND EASY TO UNDERSTAND
    HOWEVER, IF YOU LOOK AT THE CONSTITUTION THE PF GAVE US. THIS CONSTITUTION IS NOT EASY TO UNDERSTAND. IMAGINE THE LAW ASSOCIATION OF ZAMBIA, FAILING TO UNDERSTAND IT ON (MINISTERS TO REMAIN IN OFFICE UNTIL NEXT PRESIDENT )
    2. IT SHOULD STAND THE TEST OF TIME. MEANING IT SHOULD NOT HAVE CLAUSES THAT ONLY SUIT THE PARTY IN POWER BECAUSE OTHER PARTIES OR P-RESIDENTS MAY BE COMPELLED TO CHANGE IT. NOW IF YOU LOOK AT THE PF GIVEN CONSTITUTION AND ITS GRADE 12 CLAUSE , DO YOU THINK THE NEXT GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BE FORCED TO CHANGE IT?

  10. vote

    Useless NGOs just want money from their equally useless donors who do not even check on how their taxpayers money is being misapplied by these greedy NGOs…

  11. vote

    Comment:will you please bring people on ground to let the citizens of zambia know what they are voting for/against in this referendum because we can’t just go blindly without knowing the content of the proposed bill of right…don’t be selfish please!!!.

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