A CHURCH mother body and some members of the civil society in Zambia have differed on the roadmap in the constitution- making process.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) yesterday supported Government’s position on the enactment of the Constitution through a piecemeal approach.
But the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) said Government should rescind its ‘‘faulty’’ decision to take constitutional amendments to Parliament and ensure that a national referendum was held before the 2016 general elections.
EFZ executive director Pukuta Mwanza said in a letter written to Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula that conducting a referendum would require a voter registration exercise specifically aimed at meeting the referendum threshold.
Reverend Mwanza said although he stood firmly for the referendum in the past, the process was impracticable at the moment considering the limited time available for all the processes.
“We support the proposed piecemeal approach towards enacting the Constitution provided we get the expected results in having the Constitution that the Zambian people have always wanted.
“We expect the appointment of a Cabinet outside Parliament as this will guarantee the separation of powers between the three arms of Government, the 50%+1 vote threshold for the winning Presidential candidate in an election, the date of the Presidential elections to be enshrined in the constitution to avoid making this a special preserve of the sitting president, and so on that will be in favour of popular articles that were submitted by the people,” he said.
Rev Mwanza said the country did not have enough time to hold a referendum before 2016 because it required a lot of work and resources.
He said each step that the Government takes on the constitution making process should now inspire hope and confidence towards the enactment of a people driven constitution.
Rev Mwanza urged the Government to continue engaging with various stakeholders on the matter and to exercise transparency and accountability to the general public to avoid suspicion and fears regarding the constitution making process.
“We bear in mind that the tripartite elections are due barely 15 months away and that conducting a referendum will require to be preceded by a voter registration exercise specifically aimed at meeting the referendum threshold.
“We have considered the implications of Article 79 (3) that required a 50% threshold of eligible voters to participate in a referendum, and taken into account that in order to determine the number of eligible voters a census needs to be conducted and also a follow-up voter registration to capture that 50 percent,” he said.
But the NGOCC has insisted that the Government should listen to the people’s consistent demands for the enactment of a new Constitution before 2016.
NGOCC board chairperson Sara Longwe said Zambians needed a new Constitution to be adopted through a referendum.
She said the country still had enough time to hold the Constitution referendum before the 2016 tripartite elections.
“We as NGOCC demand that the Constitution be adopted through a referendum and we still have enough time to hold such before even the 2016 general elections,” she said.
Ms Longwe said the Government was trying to bully the whole country over a faulty process but that it would not yield Zambia any benefits and was an affront to the promotion of a truly democratic dispensation that should accelerate national development and peace.
Ms Longwe said by enacting the Constitution in a phased manner, the PF and President Lungu were disregarding the wishes of Zambians who had consistently insisted that the new Constitution must be adopted through a referendum.
She said NGOCC demanded that the Government listened to people’s consistent demands for the enactment of a new Constitution before 2016.