RE: NATIONAL REFERENDUM TO ADOPT NATIONAL CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS IS NON- NEGOTIABLE
The Non Governmental Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) and its affiliate members have actively participated in the constitutional review processes on the sound understanding that the process and contents should be people driven. NGOCC firmly believes that a good Constitution can only be written with the peoples’ active participation in its making. It is therefore vitally important that the general populace is effectively consulted at every important stage of the process of constitution making. It is apparent that for any Constitution to be regarded as an expression of the “will” of the people, it must pass both the test of procedural efficacy as well as be sound in content.
As regards to the adoption and enactment of the National Constitution, NGOCC, as a matter of principle and as earlier stated, believes in giving due regard to the Three Part Process of constitution making which was envisaged to comprise an adoption process through a Constituent Assembly or other broadly representative body, followed by a National Referendum after which enactment would be done by Parliament without further debate.
NGOCC will not accept piecemeal amendments to the Constitution – such a move will leave the constitution in the hands of parliament which will open up debate and in some instances, the wishes of the people may not be considered. Zambians may wish to note that both the Mwanakatwe and Mung’omba Commissions recommended adoption by a Constituent Assembly followed by a National Referendum. We are therefore re-iterating our clarion call for a complete repeal and replacement of the current constitution; Zambia needs a new constitutional foundation – we need a new constitution.
NGOCC is also concerned with the lack of commitment and assurance to the National Referendum process by the Executive. Though NGOCC is aware that the Technical Committee has alluded to subjecting of the final draft Constitution to a National Referendum, it is both the legal and moral duty of the Executive to be clear on this process. Expansion of the Bill of Rights underscores the importance of the National Referendum particularly that the Bill of Rights has been expanded to integrate progressive Articles on the promotion and protection of women’s rights, rights of children, among others. The women’s and children’s rights as provided for in the draft Constitution are a progressive step for Zambia and delivering on this important aspect would be in the interest of every Zambian and more so on the part of our country’s leadership. While recognizing the fact that Government will be responsible for managing the pre-referendum, referendum and post referendum stages, it is necessary for Government to demonstrate its commitment to the process by urgently appointing a Referendum Commission which should embark on a preparatory process.
We are calling on all citizens to raise our collective voices to call for immediate setting up of the Referendum Commission in order to facilitate for the holding of a National Referendum – now more than ever. Women’s Rights are Human Rights and are not negotiable.
God Bless Zambia.
BEATRICE M. GRILLO
NGOCC BOARD CHAIRPERSON