By Bright Chikele:
ZAMBIANS should ignore calls of voting NO in the referendum but should vote YES to the question because to remain where we are with the current state of the Bill of Rights is remaining in the colonial days, Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) Council member Chishimba Kaela has said.
Speaking at a public forum held at Northern Technical College (NORTEC) in Ndola yesterday, Mr.Kaela stated that in as much as there was so much opposition to the route taken by Government, the truth was that the trajectory was progressive.
Mr. Kaela said the current Bill of Rights dates back to the 1960s’ and other countries had moved forward.
He said the draft Bill of Rights did not only improve civic and political rights but also economic and social rights.
However, Mr. Kaela said LAZ was not comfortable with the manner in which the exercise had been managed on the sensitisation aspect.
Mr Kaela said the Electoral Commission of Zambia had not done enough to sensitise citizens.
“If those in urban area have access to the information of the referendum exercise but cannot understand, it means those in rural areas are left in the dark and leaves the exercise hanging because the threshold will not be attained. As LAZ, we did look into the 2010 census and did some permutations and it is difficult to attain 50 percent of illegible voters’ threshold out of the 4000 people who
voted in the last election when people will vote YES or NO,” he said.
Mr Kaela said the referendum question was not one question but two put in one and citizens were being asked whether to change the Bill of Rights or Article 79.
He said the manner in which the question has been framed left no option for a Zambian to choose one between the two questions.
He stated that the danger in amending article 79 did not entail whether the citizenry was going to empower parliament.
Mr.Kaela charged that Zambia was still developing as a democracy and the referendum was a progressive step and all Zambians needed to encourage each other to participate.
‘If I can cite from professor Ndulo in one of the papers, freedom of assembly is the life of democracy, creates space for political and essential in a democratic society because only through meeting and talking, fellow citizens can critically explore various beliefs and values which animate political decisions,” Mr. Kaela read.
He said if freedom of expression and assembly were being infringed upon, it indicated that the State was not democratic.
Mr. Kaela indicated that LAZ was of the view that the Public Order Act in its current state was unfairly implemented especially for those who were not in Government.
He said article 20 and 21 in their current state was infringing on rights of assembly because it was easy for the police to say they did not have man power and revoke any notice from a political gathering for the opposition.
He said LAZ did challenge the provisions in 2009 and judgment released two months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the provision was not acceptable in its current state.