Govt doubts constitution referendum success


Government says a new constitution can only be enactment before 2016 by forgoing the national referendum on the final draft constitution.

Chief Government Spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili says government has come to the realization that the cheaper and faster option of having a new constitution before 2016 is the inclusion of popular demand provisions contained in the final draft constitution in the current constitution.

Mr. Kambwili says government has favored this option after coming to terms of how difficult it will be to satisfy provisions of Article 79 of the current constitution and the Bill of Rights, the two provisions that require a referendum in order to repeal the constitution.

Mr Kambwili has told a media briefing in Lusaka this afternoon that Article 79 for example requires that any Bill for altering the constitution will not be passed unless it’s First Reading in the National Assembly is done after it has been subjected to a national referendum in which not less than 50 percent of the country’s eligible voters participate.

The Information and Broadcasting Services Ministers explains that this means that for a national referendum to be considered valid, more than half of the eligible voters in a general election should take part.

Mr Kambwili says it is on this provision of the constitution that government has placed its concerns against using a referendum as the mode of adoption for the country’s new constitution owing to the voter apathy that is on the rise in the country.

The Chief government spokesperson points out that the 20th January, 2015 presidential election in which only 32 percent of eligible voters participated is proof enough that such voter apathy in the country will have a negative impact on the constitution referendum and thereby render it an exercise in futility, as the more than 50 percent constitution provision will not be met to validate the referendum.

He says this is why government is calling upon stakeholders such as the Grand Coalition on the Campaign for the People Driven Constitution to interrogate the probability of holding a successful referendum before 2016.

Mr. Kambwili says if that the Grand Coalition still remains adamant about holding a referendum, they should demonstrate that there is enough capacity and time to woo 59 percent of the current registered voters to the polls before the 2016 general elections.

He has however maintained that government on the other hand still remains open to dialogue on the current constitution making process and welcomes both consenting and dissenting comments on its released roadmap for enacting the country’s new constitution.