NGOs oppose holding referendum together with elections

More than 40 Civic organisations have charged that the delay in releasing the proposed Bill of Rights by the government was a deliberate ploy to deprive Zambians of a people driven constitution.

The NGOs who fall under the NGOCC have therefore demanded that the referendum on the bill of rights should not be held alongside the elections .

The NGOs also noted in a statement that the Bill of Rights has also not been simplified and translated into local languages and sign language.

They have expressed concern that with only 70 days before the proposed national referendum is held; the government only released the proposed Bill of Rights on 30th May 2016 and pointed out that the people of Zambia were not aware of the contents of the proposed Bill of Rights.

The statement reads that holding the national referendum together with the general elections will result in rendering the constitution making process meaningless and a waste of public resources as it will not achieve the peoples’ intended purpose.

They have argued that the national referendum was a critical civic process that transcends any political process especially of a political nature as the 2016 general elections adding that the different eligibility tests for the referendum and general elections presents unique and new challenges to electorates and 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 the two electoral processes. To use the same venue and personnel to manage both the elections and 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 statement reads in part.
They have observed that whereas the Central Statistics Office projects the total voting population to be just over 7 million Zambians, the Electoral Commission of Zambia only managed to capture 6 million plus voters.
It has further been argued that the unprecedented incidences of political violence the country has experienced in the past two years may lead to voter apathy which will in turn impact greatly on the success of the referendum.
The representatives have also pointed out that the referendum question was not very clear as it proposes two things in one question.

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