THE Referendum Amendment Bill yesterday passed through second reading in Parliament and will now come up at Committee Stage.
Minister of Justice Ngosa Simbyakula told the House that the Referendum (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend the Referendum Act in order to bring its provisions on eligibility to vote at a referendum in conformity with the eligibility criteria provided for in the constitution of Zambia.
“The Bill further seeks to transfer the responsibility of conducting all referendums to the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
“Mr Speaker, the Referendum Act currently restricts the category of persons eligible to vote at referendum on any issue to only those who at the time of the referendum are registered as voters to vote at the elections to the National Assembly,” Dr Simbyakula said.
The minister said it has now become necessary to amend the Referendum Act in order to bring it in tandem with the constitution.
“The amendment is necessary because the constitution is the supreme law. The ECZ will be given the powers to conduct all future referenda. This Bill is not controversial,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government and Housing John Phiri yesterday told Parliament that security wings cleared the disposal of a six-hectare piece of land behind Brentwood Drive near State House.
And Dr Phiri said Lusaka City Council (LCC) did not require prior permission from his ministry to sell the piece of land on Mwatusanga Road because it is zoned as mixed-use land.
Dr Phiri said this in a ministerial statement following a point of order by Chongwe member of Parliament Sylvia Masebo (PF) who wanted to know whether he was in order to categorically state that no property next to State House was disposed of.
Ms Masebo said in her point of order then that: “This issue is of public interest and there are issues of security nature as the land is next door to State House.”
But Dr Phiri said the property that was being referred to as being near State House is actually on Mwatusanga Road, which is off both Independence Avenue and Leopards Hill Road behind Brentwood Drive.
He said it is actually the waterworks land which is near State House.
In a follow-up question, Ms Masebo contended that the Local Government Act clearly stipulates that no local authority shall dispose of land or property without the permission of the minister.
And Dr Phiri said procedure was followed by the LCC in disposing of the land.
The minister was responding to Mafinga MP Catherine Namugala (MMD), who asked why he was defending LCC.
“Mr Speaker, this issue is non-partisan. At least I know that this minister (Dr Phiri) is innocent. But why is he defending council officials who have not done a right thing?” Ms Namugala asked.
Dr Phiri said the land in question is an area reserved by LCC as a mixed-use land under the Lusaka Master Plan.
“Sir, the council was in order to proceed to dispose of the land. I must report that the council has gone further to ensure that the nursery has been preserved and K1 million has been set aside to recapitalise the nursery and make it commercially viable,” Dr Phiri said.