Suspending referendum not helpful, YALI

SUSPENDING the national referendum will only delay progress in the constitution-making process that started almost 50 years ago, says Young African Leaders Initiative governance advisor Isaac Mwanza.

Mr Mwanza said calls from stakeholders to suspend the national referendum on the Bill of Rights would not take away the ability of Members of Parliament to alter the Bill after the referendum unless the country quickly repealed Article 79 to halt such future plans.

He said the only way to ensure the people’s aspirations were retained was to adopt provisions of Article 302 and 303 of the Final Draft Constitution, to curtail Parliament from making future amendments unless through another referendum.

He said YALI had already approached the high office to advocate for engagements to build consensus around key issues on what amendments to be made to the Bill of Rights before proceeding with the holding of the referendum.

“We now wish to make public our correspondence to President Lungu on this matter.

“YALI now wishes to confirm that on 8th February 2016, the organisation wrote to Republican President, Edgar Lungu to, among other key issues, advise on the need to build consensus around what amendments will have to be made to the Bill of Rights before proceeding with holding of the referendum”.

Mr Mwanza said holding the referendum would also repeal Article 79 alongside the 2016 general elections would  not only be a matter of public interest but also the only way Zambians could take away the powers of Parliament to tampering with the referendum’s outcome. He said calls to suspend the national referendum on the Bill of Rights without the abolishment of  Article 79 would be replaced by Article 302 and 303 of the final Draft Constitution which open the doors to Parliamentarians elected after the August 11 elections to repeal Article 79 and thus make any future referendum on the Bill of Rights binding.

Mr Mwanza said calls from stakeholders to suspend the national referendum on the Bill of Rights would not take away the powers of Parliament to amend the new Constitution, unless the country quickly repealed Article 79 and replaced the same with provisions of Article 302 and 303 of the final Draft Constitution.

He said civic organisations should therefore take advantage of holding the referendum alongside the 2016 general election to test the people’s reaction and responses to making decisions on Constitutional issues to ascertain that Zambians truly got a people-driven Constitution.

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