HRC welcomes another referendum

Referendum Question

GOVERNMENT’s intention to consider holding another referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights has been supported by the Human Rights Commissioin (HRC)

Chief of information, education and training, Mweelwa Muleya, said the Commission was in support of Minister of Justice Given Lubinda’s pronouncement that Government was considering calling for another national referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights.

Mr. Muleya said pronouncements that the Government would widely consult with key stakeholders before tabling the proposed Bill of Rights to the eligible voters through a national referendum was the right way to go if the process was to succeed.

He said the Bill of Rights were generally progressive but said there was need for consensus on clauses which were considered contentious in order to arrive at the desired result of attaining the objective.

“It is the considered view of the Human Rights Commission that the proposed Bill of Rights is largely progressive and areas of contention can easily be addressed so that there is consensus on what needs to be entrenched under the Bill of Rights.

“The Commission believes that valuable lessons can be learnt from the failed referendum and fundamental among such lessons is the inescapable need for political consensus on paramount national issues such as the contents of the Bill of Rights,” Mr. Muleya said.

He explained that there was need for a spirit of give and take in such governance issues as failure to do so might result in losing everything as the case was during the August 11th Referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights and amendment to Article 79 of the Zambian Constitution.

He said it was totally unjustifiable that more than 25 years after being a pioneer of multi-party democracy in the Southern African Region, Zambia should continue maintaining a Bill of Rights which was inherently discriminatory against women.

“The current Bill of Rights regrettably only protects civil and political rights at the expense of other rights and freedoms. It is largely for this reason that the Commission supports the declaration of willingness by the Government to revisit the national referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights because, if adopted and enacted, the proposed Bill of Rights can greatly contribute to enhanced and broadened legal protection of human rights and freedoms in Zambia.

“The Human Rights Commission is willing to make submissions to the Government based on the experience and views from the stakeholders that were engaged during the countrywide sensitisation activities before the run up to August 11th National Referendum,” he said.

He said the Commission would continue sensitising members of the public and key stakeholders on the importance of reforming the current Bill of Rights by adopting and enacting a proposed Bill of Rights that would enjoy wide legitimacy through a process of honest and transparent consultations, negotiations and consensus.

He called on Government to make the proposed Bill of Rights readily available and accessible to the majority of citizens, and advised the general citizenry to take keen interest in reading and understating the contents of the proposed Bill of Rights in order to make informed choices.