NGOCC warns of referendum ‘confusion’


By Nation Reporter

THERE is a clear lack of sensitisation on the National Referendum as most Zambians still remain oblivious to what is contained in the Bill of Rights and there will be confusion on the polling day, the Non-Governmental Coordinating Council (NGOCC) has warned.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lusaka, NGOCC chairperson Sarah Longwe said in the current process, political parties and candidates were concentrating on campaigning for political power as opposed to sensitising communities on the National Referendum.

“While the Bill contains a number of progressive provisions, we are of the view that there was need to re-look at the document to avoid making any mistakes that may perpetuate discrimination, bad governance and human rights abuses,” Ms. Longwe.

Ms. Longwe added that NGOCC is of the view that most of the people were unaware of the contents of the Bill of Rights and that even though Government insisted on proceeding with the referendum, very little was being done to educate the masses about the process.

“There are a number of inconsistencies in the Referendum Act and amended Constitution that need to be reconciled and harmonised. For instance Article 14, protection from discrimination, must be reconciled with the provisions in the amended Constitution on discrimination,” she said.

The NGOCC chairperson also raised concern on the allotted time for individuals to cast their five ballots as being inadequate and that many Zambians would be disenfranchised to vote in the referendum.

“Over the years, the timings of 06:00 hrs to 18:00 hrs have been problematic as some people have been disenfranchised because of time limitation. Given the five ballots in the August 16 elections, it is highly unlikely that as many people will be able to participate and achieve the Referendum threshold of 50 percent eligible voters,” said Ms. Longwe.

She also said she foresaw confusion during the voting day considering that the two processes had different qualification requirements for a citizen to participate because in the general election to elect the President, Members of Parliament and councillors one had to be registered as a voter and at a particular polling station, but that to vote in the National Referendum, one only had to have a green National Registration Card and vote at any polling station.

“To mix the two different processes of the partisan general elections and the National Referendum will cause unnecessary confusion at the polling stations, further compromising the legitimacy of both election results,” she added.