IT IS unpatriotic for some of our politicians to down play the importance of the Referendum on the Bill of Rights when the very proposals contained in the document are the foundation of what Zambians have been crying for over the years.
Zambians have in successive Constitutional Review Commissions submitted on enhancing the Bill of Rights and that is what was done in the document which would be a subject of a vote in the Referendum.
Our politicians should clearly explain what a referendum is and what the Bill of Rights is and should not confuse the two.
While the Referendum vote can be on anything, as the case was in the United Kingdom where the vote was on whether or not to retain the membership of the European Union, in Zambia the matter is on the Bill of Rights.
According to legal jargon, the Bill of Rights is a set of legal guarantees that are specifically in the Constitution to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people.
These guarantees include freedoms of conscience, expression, assembly, association, liberty, life, privacy, security of the person and from deprivation of property without compensation.
The Bill of Rights is fundamental to democracy and constitutionalism and is the basis of Zambia’s social, political, legal, economic and cultural policies and State action.
It is to these rights that the Referendum question speaks to whether they should be enhanced or not.
It does not matter whether some politicians are opposed to the enhancement of such rights or not, the bottom line is for stakeholders to educate associates on the contents of the Bill of Rights.
Our political leaders should not import clauses which are not in the Bill of Rights and incite Zambians to vote against the document.
Neither should those in support of the Bill of Rights window dress the document to seek votes.
Our call is for either side of the debate to bring out points for their positions in the Referendum.
This entails throwing the clauses to the public and then explaining the merits and demerits of having such fundamental rights in the Constitution.
So far, we have heard some non-governmental organisations praising the contents of the proposed Bill of Rights, but have not gone beyond such pronouncement.
It is important for such organisations to reach out to their members and explained what they meant when pronouncing the Bill of Right good.
Without such outreach programmes by political parties and other stakeholders, Zambians may just lose out when the Referendum result comes out in the negative.
Our politicians should up their game over sensitising the masses about the contents of the Bill of Rights so that when voting either YES or NO, the implication of their decision will be fully known.