Why PF wants to avoid referendum on contentious issues

When the PF talks about taking non-contentious issues to parliament for enactment, what exactly do they mean? What do they mean by ‘non-contentious’?

Going by media statements and popular discussions on radio, newspapers and online, we can pick out a few issues as the most ‘important’ or at least ‘popular. These would include the need for the winning presidential candidate to have obtained more than 50 per cent of the vote (so called 50+1), the need for each participating political party to feature a presidential and vice-presidential candidate to be elected together as running mate. In simple language, the vice-president should be elected by the people not appointed by the president. There is also the question whether Zambia should abolish capital punishment (death penalty). NB: In many USA states the death penalty is legal. The issue of whether Zambians should be allowed to have dual nationality is also high on many people’s minds. There is the question of the Barotseland Agreement and the rights of homosexuals. This is a very important topic especially for the USA and UK ambassadors whom we hear support government’s plan to amend the constitution in a piecemeal manner.

Now, the PF government has picked out the 50+1, running mate clause and others as the non-contentious issues. Minister of Justice Ngosa Simbyakula told journalists last month that the bill of rights and ‘contentious clauses’ in the draft constitution would be subjected to a referendum to be held simultaneously with the 2016 general elections.

We find this stance by the PF misleading but not confusing. We know the PF thrives on confusion and lies.

By saying we shall take to parliament non-contentious issues, the PF is giving the impression that they support the need for a presidential running mate, the 50+1 and dual citizenship. But this is not true. So far, all statements attributed to PF leaders show that they are vehemently opposed to having presidential running mate, 50+1 and dual nationality. The point is that, when these matters will be taken to parliament, the PF will vote against all of them. Then they would start arguing that these matters have already been resolved by parliament so they cannot be a subject of a referendum. This is why NGOs or disgraced former NGO leaders are talking about ‘usurpation’ of the power of parliament. This is where the USA and UK ambassadors are missing it. They have been cheated and made to believe that the PF supports 50+1, presidential run mate and dual nationality. Ambassadors can only see the issues of costs without really seeing what the PF is trying to do.

Government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili last week said that the ruling PF has the required numbers to meet the 106 threshold required for any legislation to be passed in the House.

Now, if what they are taking to parliament are non-contentious issues, why are they marshalling numbers? Who are they planning to defeat? We thought when something is non-contentious, there is consensus? Everybody agrees with what is proposed. But the PF says it has numbers to pass the ‘non contentious issues’. This simply means that the PF has a different agenda.

And then they want to hold the referendum together with the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. Why would you want to confuse people? We all know how highly charged and partisan Zambian politics can be. Why is the PF trying to turn the constitution making into a partisan affair? What we are going to see is that, people will vote on the constitution in line with the presidential candidate they will vote for.

A referendum is supposed to be a simplified method of voting. Citizens decide by voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an important question. Now why should that process be diluted by conducting it together with elections? The PF again stands to benefit from the confusion that will ensue. That is their main motivation.

The PF fears that if the issues of 50+1, presidential running mate and dual nationality are decided through a referendum, by all us, we shall vote to have these issues in the constitution. But if these same matters are decided by parliament which is dominated by the PF and other opposition quacks, these issues will be rejected. Yet the PF wants to pretend that they are preserving money? When did the PF start caring about preserving money? Why are they inducing bye-elections?

It is a pity that even ambassadors can’t see through PF tricks.

If Zambians want to have 50+1, dual nationality, presidential running mate and other important issues in the bill of rights in their constitution, then they should demand a referendum.

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