Vote Yes! in referendum

SPECIAL REPORT LOGOBy DAVID KANDUZA –

ELECTIONS in Zambia have since time immemorial been conducted within the framework of a multi-party democracy and a presidential system.
It is against this backdrop that since independence in 1964, only one national Referendum has been held.
A Constitutional Referendum on June 17, 1969 saw 85 per cent of voters approve amendments to the Constitution to remove the need for referendums on certain constitutional amendments.
The Referendum proposed amending the Constitution to remove the requirement for future amendments of clauses protecting fundamental rights to go to a public Referendum, and instead required only a two-thirds majority in the national assembly.
The Referendum was passed with 85 per cent voting in favour of the change. Voter turnout was more than 69 per cent.
This years Referendum will take place on August 11, after the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) formulated and published the question which voters will answer with “Yes” or “No”.
The Bill of Rights will guarantee social, economic and basic freedoms for all Zambians and can only be voted on via Referendum.
The people of Zambia will have an outright say in the manner the Bill of Rights has to be dealt with.
Article 79 of the Republican Constitution provides that there can be no amendment to the said Article 79 and to the Bill of Rights until a Referendum has been held and at least 50 per cent and more of the registered voters have voted in the process.
President Edgar Lungu early this year assented to the Constitutional Amendment Bill that allows the people of Zambia to defend the Constitution.
The President recently urged the public to vote “Yes” in the Referendum, a process that would be conducted alongside the August 11 general elections.
President Lungu said: “We listen when people talk. When we said PF will give you a new Constitution, we gave it to you, and when we said PF will give you a Referendum, yes, we shall give you a Referendum.”
The President said his administration wants to put to rest the issue of the Constitution and urged all Zambians to vote “Yes” in the Referendum so that Zambia forges ahead in national development.
“And the Referendum question is now out. I will vote “Yes” to it and all PF members should vote “Yes” to it because we want an expanded Bill of Rights. So why should Zambians remove us when we are working? We are people on the move,” said President Lungu.
Though it would be difficult for an ordinary Zambian to understand the meaning of what is contained in the Referendum because of the language used some experts have argued that it is too technical.
Some have argued that an ordinary person from the village may not understand the contents hence the need of information to ensure people know what rights are enshrined in the law.
In a country with high illiteracy, there is need for relevant authorities to educate the masses.
In most jurisdictions that practice them, Referendums are relatively rare occurrences and are restricted to important issues.
The most frequent type of direct popular participation is the Referendum on constitutional matters.
Advocates of the Referendum often argue that certain decisions are best taken out of the hands of representatives, and determined directly by the people.
Other advocates insist that the principle of popular sovereignty demands that certain fundamental questions, such as the adoption or amendment of a Constitution, the secession of a State, or the altering of national boundaries, be determined with the directly expressed consent of the people.
Advocates of representative democracy say Referendums are used by politicians to avoid making difficult or controversial decisions.
Critics of this process argue that voters in a Referendum are more likely to be driven by transient whims than by careful deliberation, or that they are not sufficiently informed to make decisions on complicated or technical issues.
Also, voters might be swayed by propaganda, strong personalities, and expensive advertising campaigns.
The issue of the Bill of Rights is something that all of us are agreed to. The education that has to go to the people is simply to go and vote yes, so that Zambians can have the Bill of Rights.
By urging a ‘Yes’ vote in Referendum President Lungu is championing democracy.
It is the turn of the Zambian citizens have their voices heard in the corridors of power.
The wisdom of the many must prevail. Let’s vote ‘Yes’ to that!

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