Referendum expensive and untimely-US envoy

UNITED States Ambassador to Zambia, Eric Schutz, says it will be difficult for any donor to finance the holding of a national referendum to adopt the new Constitution in Zambia because of the period and cost involved.

Mr. Schutz said holding a referendum was like holding another presidential election given the amount of money to be spent.

Answering questions from Copperbelt University (CBU) students when he visited the American Corner, Mr Schutz felt that Government and Non-Governmental Organisations could still dialogue to find the best way of adopting the new Constitution.

Mr Schutz however said the donor community was waiting patiently to see how the country could come up with a people-driven constitution which would stand the test of time.

The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a people driven Constitution has maintained that Zambia’s new Constitution can only stand the test of time and command the respect of all citizens if it is adopted through a referendum.

But Government has said that the current Constitution can be partially amended through Parliament by immediately incorporating the Silungwe final draft constitution while the current Bill of Rights can be subjected to a referendum during next year’s general elections.

Chief Government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili said yesterday that subjecting the entire Silungwe draft Constitution to a referendum this year may result in failure because of the high levels of apathy.

Mr Kambwili said a failed referendum will entail that the electoral related provisions contained in the final draft Constitution, which do not require a referendum, will not be made part of the Constitution during the 2016 presidential and general elections.

Mr Kambwili said assuming Zambians demanded a referendum this year, the total number of eligible voters, based on the preliminary 2010 Census report, would be 6,069,753.

“This means that for a referendum to be successful, in accordance with Article 79 (3), more than 50 percent of the 6,060,753 must participate in the vote

“If less than 3, 034,877 registered voters turned up to vote in the anticipated referendum, it would fail,” he said.

Mr Kambwili urged the Grand Coalition on a people-driven Constitution to critically and objectively interrogate the successful probability of a national referendum and give Zambians comfort that would not stand to lose out.

He said Government’s suggestion was that all the provisions in the current Constitution that needed to be changed can be amended, leaving out the Bill of Rights (Part III) and Article 79 of the current Constitution.

“This is not only cheap but faster, considering that the elections are not very far. Through Parliament, all the provisions in the Constitution that need to be changed can be changed, leaving out the Bill of Rights (Part III) and Article 79 of the current Constitution,” he said.

Mr Kambwili said Government remained open to dialogue on the constitution-making process and welcomed both consenting and dissenting comments on the roadmap that was released last month.

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