THE call by the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) for Government and the Electoral Commission of Zambia to postpone the national referendum so that it does not take place alongside the general elections next month, would have been laughable if it were not being made by such a respected Church mother body.
With only 31 days to go before the referendum is held, what drives the leadership of the CCZ to make such an outlandish statement at this late hour which will only help create more confusion and cloud the issues of such a critical national endeavour?
Where was Bishop (Dr) Alfred Kalembo, the CCZ president, from the time this debate started almost two years ago with the Oasis Forum leading the anti-referendum lobby up to when Government enacted the Bill to allow the two national events to take place simultaneously?
Could it be that the CCZ is simply being mischievous or is it Dr Kalembo and his team who are being politically naive so as to influence the outcome of the referendum?
Dr Kalembo, in calling for the scrapping of the referendum and hold it long after the elections, argues that this will unify the people and will make the exercise devoid of partisanship and political affiliation, adding: ‘’This confusion is compounded by the fact that the referendum is being held alongside the general elections, which are taking place under a new political system.’’
The Church mother body not only casts doubt on the wisdom behind the formulation of the referendum question, saying the clarity of the intent is hidden, it alleges that the use of the eye and ear symbols further complicates the question.
Our view is that it is the ECZ who are deliberately sabotaging the holding of the referendum for its own partisan reasons. It is Dr Kalembo and his henchmen who want to confuse voters by covertly and insidiously encouraging them to ignore the referendum on August 11 or vote ‘’No’’.
The CCZ says that ‘’it is not too late‘’ to separate the two important processes by dropping the referendum from the general elections when they are aware that the ballot papers for the exercise are being printed right now in Dubai. In fact the printing process will start with the referendum.
Not only that. The campaign to encourage all eligible voters to take part in the referendum started in earnest soon after the political party nominations. Many high-profile organisations which were opposed to the holding of the referendum alongside the elections, including the Oasis Forum and Law Association of Zambia, have changed their stance and are campaigning for the success of this historic national event.
The Government, through the Electoral Commission of Zambia, has spent a fortune to ensure the question of the Bill of Rights, which is the core issue of the referendum, is settled once and for all.
All political parties, except the UPND and its rallies in some Church mother bodies and civil society organisations, are busy urging the electorate to participate in the referendum and vote in favour so that the Bill of Rights can be entrenched in the Constitution.
So where does Bishop Kalembo and his comrades in the Council of Churches in Zambia stand – with the people or their partisan interest?