The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) says the set question for the August referendum casts a cloud over the clarity of the intent.
The CCZ said that the symbols being used of an eye and ear to represent the Yes and No referendum vote respectively have further complicated the question.
CCZ president Alfred Kalembo said the Council has established that this confusion is compounded by the fact that the referendum is being held alongside the August general elections.Therefore the CCZ is of the view that the referendum can be deferred to a later date after the elections so that it is detached from mainline politics.This is in order for the referendum to stand out as a national issue in a way that unifies people devoid of partisanship and political affiliations divide
Below is the full press release
The leaders of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) recently held a consultative meeting in Lusaka to consider the issues surrounding the 2016 Referendum and would like to state the following.
We believe that a referendum should be a celebration of an agreement made by consensus on the issue at hand, in this case the Bill of Rights through a well established and agreed process by those to whom the matter is being referred, the Zambian people.
The Church continues to lament over the flawed processes leading to both the amendment of the national constitution and its assent to, by President Edgar Lungu in January and now the proposed referendum to be held alongside the forth-coming August 11, General Elections. We believe that both processes are breached and do not meet the threshold of a people’s popular agreement. It is regrettable that government as usual bulldozed their way through the constitution making process and made it their own process leaving behind the proprietors of the fundamental law of the land who are the citizens.
The Council appreciates that most of the content of the proposed Bill of Right is what the Zambian people would like to see entrenched in the law, however, we have a conviction that much remains to be done before a truly befitting constitution is framed, a constitution which will not be based on particular biases but on the principles of legitimacy, credibility without compromising the integrity and effectiveness of the process. We cannot over emphasise, like we have consistently stated, that the process of adopting the constitution is just as important as its substance.
It is our observation throughout the years, that Zambians have accepted little ‘favours’ from all successive governments on the constitution making process for far too long. We look forward to a time when Zambians will be respected for what they really are; good people, patient, long suffering, however, this should not be taken for granted.
CCZ notes that the formulation of the referendum question has cast a cloud over the clarity of the intent. The symbols being used which are an eye and ear have further complicated the question. This confusion is compounded by the fact that the referendum is being held along side the General Elections, which are taking place under a new political system.
Considering the above, CCZ suggests that it is not too late to separate the two important processes. The referendum to be deferred to a later date after the elections so that it is detached from mainline politics in order for it to stand out as a national issue in a way that unifies people, devoid of partisanship and political affiliations divide. The separation of the two will allow Zambians to concentrate on one single issue at a given time. The entrenchment of the Bill of Rights must be divorced completely from a partisan election because at the moment it is difficult to separate the two issues. The question of lack of funds to hold a Referendum separately is a weak argument which cannot be rationally justify.
CCZ has noted from the commentaries from our streets how people are going to vote on partisan basis and that in itself renders the whole Referendum exercise ineffective. We see a situation where the constitution making process will go back to the drawing board yet again, a bad situation which could be avoided by paying attention to the process.
Bishop Dr Alfred Kalembo
PRESIDENT-COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN ZAMBIA (CCZ)