ELECTION day this time around will be slightly different from the usual as the country will hold two separate elections on the same date, August 11, 2016.
As people will be exercising their right to vote for a presidential candidate, Member of Parliament and councillor among others, they will also have an opportunity to participate in the Referendum on the Bill of Rights.
A Referendum is a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has formulated and published the Referendum question which individuals voting for or against the Bill of rights will consider during the poll.
The question is: “Do you agree to the amendment to the Constitution to enhance the Bill of rights contained in part three of the Constitution of Zambia and to repeal and replace Article 79 of the Constitution of Zambia”.
Citizens would be expected to answer yes or no by marking against the provided symbols which will be an eye for the Yes vote and an ear for No.
The Zambian society has expressed mixed feelings over the Referendum ranging from timing to senstisation among others.
However, the general feeling seems to be one that the Referendum should go ahead on August 11, with the conclusion on the part of Government that this would be a cost effective approach.
Linda Kasonde, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president urges Zambians to seize the opportunity and vote yes to the proposed amendments to the Bill of Rights.
Ms Kasonde says it is important that the nation takes advantage of the ‘only’ available time to pass the Bill of Rights which seeks to enhance the social, economic and cultural rights of citizens.
Passing the Bill of Rights is the final stage of the Constitution making process which, considering that the country has been independent for 52 years, should have been concluded a long time ago.
The proposed Bill of Rights has been published and is circulating in the Press while ECZ has initiated various forms of senstisation to familiarise people on the matter.
ECZ has, among others been using the mobile phone platform of Short Message Service (SMS) to inform people about participating in the Referendum come August 11.
The Commission has also made its requirements flexible in that people will only require a Zambian green national registration card to vote in the Referendum.
The proposed Bill of Rights is progressive with clauses such as a person’s right to freedom of opinion, movement and association.
The much talked about reform for media freedom is in the Bill of Rights as the proposed law in Article 23 (1) Subject to clause (3), provides that the freedom and independence of electronic, broadcasting, print and other forms of media is guaranteed.
The law guarantees that the State shall not exercise control over or interfere with a person engaged in broadcasting, production or circulation of publications and disseminating information through any media.
Article 23 (4) (a) states that the public media shall independently determine the editorial content of their broadcasts or communications while 23 (4) (b) indicates that public media shall afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and disseminating opinions.
This is just among other provisions of the Bill of Rights.
Let us all read and understand the content of the Bill of Rights so that the period between 06:00 hour and 18:00 hours on August 11, is well utilised for the good of the country.
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