Zambia: Zambian women's umbrella body wants different dates for elections, referendum

Lusaka, Zambia (PANA) – Zambia's forthcoming general elections and referendum on the national constitution should be held on different dates, the Non-Governmental Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) said Friday after a meeting with President Edgar Lungu.

In the view of the Council's board members, holding the two important national processes simultaneously has the potential of creating confusion among voters.

"The referendum, like the constitution itself, must be above and separate from party politics," said NGOCC chairperson Sara Longwe, following the board's consultation with President Lungu at State House in Lusaka.

General elections are set to be held 11 August 2016. Longwe maintained that NGOCC is opposed to holding the constitutional referendum together with the elections.

“We are concerned that while there is agreement that a national referendum must be held, there is little that is being done in preparation, such as civic education of the citizenry on the content of the Bill of Rights, and putting in place a legal framework and budgetary provision to enable the referendum process. Instead political players seem preoccupied with the politicking that comes with the general elections,” read part of the Council's submission to the president.

President Lungu said he would hold a meeting with the Electoral Commission of Zambia to discuss the idea of holding the general elections and referendum simultaneously.

Representatives of the NGOCC, a focal point of the women’s movement in Zambia with a membership of 104 NGOs, discussed with President Lungu some of the issues affecting the majority of women who have remained sidelined from various national development processes over the years.

According to the NGOCC, efforts to change the status of women in Zambia have continued to be frustrated by a number of legal impediments and inadequate political will.

The organization, however, commended President Lungu for his political party’s pronouncement to reserve a 40 percent quota for women at parliamentary and local government levels in the forthcoming general elections.

Lungu has already declared he will name a woman as his  running mate in the August elections.

Currently, according to Longwe, women account for 13 percent representation in parliament,  23 percent in the cabinet and a mere 6 percent at local government level.

“A number of reasons have been advanced for the low level participation of women in politics. However, one of the reasons has generally been the decision by political parties not to adopt women as candidates for elections,” she stated.

“As a women’s movement, we are concerned with the high levels of political violence in the country. Political violence is one of the reasons why women stayed away from politics, and the present situation is worse than ever before.

"Women feel unsafe to participate in politics with the high incidences of political violence. The wearing of military regalia by party cadres is not only intimidating and frightening, but also contravenes the provisions of the Public Order Act.”
-0- PANA MM/AR 8April2016

08 april 2016 18:06:46

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