HRC calls for another referendum on Bill of Rights
Written by Millennium on August 25, 2019
LINDA SOKO TEMBO writes
GOVERNMENT should consider holding another national referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights to specifically provide for economic, social, cultural and special rights for the vulnerable, women, children, and persons with disabilities among others.
Human Rights Commission (HRC) chairperson, Mr Mudford Mwandenga, said the Commission had noted with concern that there was lack of clarity under the current constitutional provisions regarding the status of economic, social and cultural rights in Zambia.
In a statement issued to the Sun, Mr Mwandenga said following the repeal of Part IX of the 1991 Constitution, as amended by Act No. 2 of 2016, the economic, social and cultural rights were clearly provided for under Part IX as part of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Mr Mwandenga said the repeal and replacement of Part IX of the 1991 Constitution by Parts VII to XX of the amended Constitution of 2016, entailed that the Constitution was silent on economic, social and cultural rights, hence the lack of clarity regarding their legal status in Zambia.
“In the interim, HRC is advocating for the re-introduction of express provisions in the Constitution as earlier contained, before the repeal and replacement of Part IX of the 1991 Constitution, by Parts VII to XX of the amended Constitution of 2016,” he said.
Mr Mwandenga said the Directive Principles of State Policy served as a guide for the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary in the development of national policies, implementation of national policies, making and enactment of laws, and application of the Constitution and any other law.
He said it was the considered view of the Commission that the failure of the National Referendum to pass the threshold to expand the Bill of Rights, as proposed in 2016, meant that Zambia was left with Part III, which was the Bill of Rights that only protected civil and political rights.
Mr Mwandenga said in other words, economic, social and cultural rights, which Zambia has committed to uphold by acceding to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) were absent.
He said having learnt from the outcome of the 2016 National Referendum which was unsuccessful, it was the HRC’s view that future national referenda be held separately from the general election in order to avoid the risk of having the process politicized.
Mr Mwandenga said the intention by government to re-visit the enactment of the expanded proposed Bill of Rights, through a National Referendum, was a progressive move which the Commission commended.
“The failure of the National Referendum, in 2016, implies that the citizens will have lost everything provided for under the Directive Principles of State Policy in as far as the realization of their economic, social and cultural rights was concerned,” he said.