Monthly Archives: January 2010

Presidential Degree: The NCC’s raw deal

The NCC has passed a resolution that the next republican constitution should require that for a person to be eligible to stand for the position of Republican President he must have attained the minimum academic qualification of a degree. I wish to argue in this article that this provision makes no practical sense and is a disservice to a pragmatic understanding of what Zambia truly needs in a leader.

First, this requirement out rightly reduces the pool from which Zambians could freely pick their president. With just 2 state universities for decades in Zambia, graduates from these institutions may be qualified, but are just too few to form the primary pool for presidency. Those educated from outside Zambia are even fewer.

Secondly, this requirement wrongly places academic qualifications as a test of good leadership. Africa should be careful here that we do not adopt western styled education as the only measure of wisdom. There are some who are saying that the need for a degree is because we need a leader who would be able to speak well at international fora. I would rather have a president who genuinely cares for Zambians, and signs bills that are helpful to her people than one who can speak all the languages of the civilized world and yet cares less. Qualities such as caring, honest, hardworking are some qualities we need to see in a leader. While education is important, it does not guarantee those qualities.

Thirdly, this requirement is a raw deal for women. Women are the most academically disadvantaged community in our country. Even if they make up about 51% of our population a very small percentage of them reach grade nine. The NCC adoption of this clause disadvantages women from ascending to the presidency in Zambia. Four male presidents have destroyed our country and it may be time for us to look to our womenfolk for the next president; but with this clause in place very few of our women would even be considered to stand for president.

Fourthly, this requirement may be an attempt to try and sideline Sata. This is déjà vu for us. In 1996 Chiluba’s government forced through some clauses in the constitution that were aimed at barring both Kaunda (the parental clause) and Mung’omba (the 20 year domicile clause). From experience such maneuvers never work. I personally do have serious misgivings about having Sata for a president, but at the same time I think it is not right for the whole NCC with the support of the MMD government to try and deliberately sneak in a clause that would disadvantage his aspiration for the high office—especially if the Zambian people want him to stand. In the end, it should be up to the Zambian people to decide whether they so feel that Sata should rule.

Fifthly, this provision confuses more than it clarifies. So what are we going to say is a university degree? Which field and which discipline, and from which school? President Banda holds a degree which he acquired at least half a century ago. Should that qualify him for president? This provision is precursor of confusion. And it will not be long before we hear an appeal lodged in the High Court for interpretation.

Sixthly, the NCC desire for a well educated president should be appreciated, but at whose expense? It is the people of Zambia to choose who among them should rule them. It is the people of Zambia to choose whether one has a degree or not. If the constitutional principle of our democracy is one man one vote then there should be no restriction why such a man should not even be eligible to stand unless he has a university degree.

If the NCC genuinely feels that only university graduates should rule Zambia, they should then begin by making primary education, secondary education, and college education freely accessible to all. Without free access to education, we may find that we will need to ask Her Majesty in Britain to send us a President, because from the kind of mismanagement we are having at the hand of both degree holders and non-degree holders, universities in Zambia would fail to graduate anyone. A little glimpse of the future? All the universities are closed, because the only pool of future presidents were busy rioting and burning cars on Buteko and Addis Ababa Drive, so much for who should be the next president!

A response to Henry Kyambalesa: the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation

This article seeks to respond to Henry Kyambalesa’s article “Zambia: the declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation” published on which I had accessed on January 20 2010. I will respond to several salient points from his article.

First, Kyambalesa’s assertion that the Declaration was an imposition of religion on the Zambian society is not quite right. Zambians have always been a religious people. And in our ethos the dualism between religion and politics that is a new western innovation does not exist at all. For Zambians, religion and politics co-exist. Specifically with regard to Christianity, it was not Chiluba who made Christianity the religion for Zambia. From the time that the missionaries set foot in Zambia, the Zambian people enmasse adopted the Christian religion as their religion. This fact was recognized by Kaunda as well as other independence leaders before and after independence. Christianity played a huge role in Kaunda’s government and he would refer on several occasions, to Zambia being a Christian nation. On the other hand, Kaunda’s downfall within the Zambian political spectrum in 1990 could be partly attributed to his abandonment of the Christian faith. Kaunda’s embracing of Dr. M.A. Ranganathan’s religion was unacceptable among many Zambians who felt that Zambia’s leader should be a Christian.

Secondly, Kyambalesa alleges that the Declaration is unconstitutional and as such is likely to lead to religious intolerance. In asserting this he quotes Dr. Seshamani. But Dr. Seshamani himself supports declaration and asserts that, Hinduism has no problem with the Declaration since Hinduism is polytheistic. The Islamic Council of Zambia has, while being cautious, as well supported the Declaration. Zambia’s constitution as it stands now does guarantee freedom of conscience for all. The Declaration that we are a Christian nation does not automatically lead to intolerance at all. All religions and a citizen’s entitlement to practice that religion are guaranteed to all. In fact, the courts of law have on a number of occasions asserted this important constitutional principle. In the cases of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Zambia’s High Court and even the Supreme Court have protected this church from closure. So far there have been no religious riots in Zambia. When Zambians rioted against the UCKG or against the Hindu Temples in Livingstone, it was not because of religion per se, but it was due to false rumors that had circulated that these institutions were participating in ritual killings—a very sensitive matter for witchcraft conscious Zambians.

Thirdly, Kyambalesa feels that the Declaration dragged religion into politics. Again as I have mentioned above, Kyambalesa wants to create a dualism that does not exist among Zambians. We are a religious people, and we cannot abandon religion regardless of what we are doing. We have used our religious convictions to support leadership, and at the same time we have used our religious convictions to rebel against leadership. Kaunda used the Bible to fight against colonialism, and once in power he relied, for a period, on the Bible to guide the nation. Even without the declaration, religion would always play a part in Zambian politics—it is who we are!

Fourthly, on a secular society, it would be necessary to find out what Kyambalesa actually means by that. Secularism requires serious definition so that we all know what we are dealing with. A secular state is never a guarantee of freedom of conscience. England has an established church, but still guarantees freedom of religion. The USA has a lot of religious symbols in its politics, but still guarantees religious freedom. Secularism has the potential to drive out religion from society. And in fact, secularism cannot take root in Zambia, because Zambians are by nature very religious people. Both Hindus and Muslims would greatly disagree with the establishment of secular society. Secularism is a western innovation and does not conform to the pattern of African people!

Fifthly, Kyambalesa cannot have it both ways. You cannot keep the church out of politics, and keep politics out of the church but still expect the church to continue providing moral and spiritual guidance to the nation. The activity of providing “spiritual and moral guidance” to the nation as you have written is very political in nature. If you choose secularism, then you cannot expect religious institutions to play those roles you have said the church should play. You cannot have it both ways!

DR Congo, Senegal Lead Africa’s Way

There has been reports recently that some African countries have responded very positively to Haiti’s devastation. DR Congo has pledged to give $2.5 million, while Senegal has pledged to help settle Haitians who would be willing to relocate to the African country.

Some, including a professor at the University of Kinshasa have condemned Congo’s gesture dismissing it as a political ploy. For some it is difficult to understand how a poor country like Congo should afford to spend so much on Haiti.

However, I find the act of Congo and Senegal to be significant for a number of reasons. First, it is Paul who attributed the following words to Jesus Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” By extending a hand to give to the earthquake devastated Haiti, these African countries practice this important principle. Giving is very important, and poverty should not be the reason why one should not give. Pope John Paul and Mother Theresa are attributed to have said that there is no one who is so rich as to not receive anything, and there is no one so poor as not to give anything. Regardless of how poor we are as a people, we are not exempt from giving to others who are in need or who are faced with serious disasters. Instead of condemning what Congo DR has done, all 52 African nations should put their resources together and pledge to help their kith and kin in Haiti. The principle of giving is that one should give according to his ability. And even in poverty someone should still be able to give. Jesus looked at the gift of the poor widow with lots of admiration because out of her poverty she still found it important to give. Giving is a key to Africa’s prosperity, and instead of building mansions in Paris and Switzerland these African leaders should be finding opportunities to give to the poor both in their countries and in places like Haiti.

Secondly, Senegal’s action is a lesson in hospitality. Africans are hospitable people. And while it may be very difficult for western countries to open up their doors to all Haitians, Africa as a beacon of hospitality should open her land for the return of her people. Abdulaye Wade wants to even create an entire region specifically for Haitians, I really do not see how this can work, but suffice to say that it is important to assimilate the returning Haitians into Senegalese society. Senegal is showing a great example of hospitality by opening its doors.

The Haiti devastation is a very painful experience, but with the world helping out, it would be easier for Haitians to face the challenge. However, the world does not just mean England and America, but Africa as well. Well done DR Congo, and the rest of Africa should do more!

Levy’s Legacy Debates

By Munshya Wa Munshya

There has been several concerns from various quarters within the Zambian political establishment about whether and how much the current President Rupiah Banda and his government have either betrayed or enhanced the legacy of the late President Levy Mwanawasa. Ng’andu Magande, a former Finance Minister, has been a vocal critic of Rupiah and his government’s betrayal of the legacy of Levy Mwanawasa. George Mpombo, a former minister of Defense, has on several occasions expressed the same opinions. Quite recently a cabinet minister in Rupiah Banda’s government Gabriel Namulambe openly criticized the president and expressed how saddened the Lamba people have been over what is perceived as the betrayal of the late Lamba President’s legacy. In fact, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa’s son Patrick has also been very defensive of his father’s legacy and has on occasions voiced disappointments with the way President Banda have handled Mwanawasa’s legacy.

On the other hand, the current government has been defensive of its approach towards Levy Mwanawasa. Vice-President George Kunda who served as Mwanawasa’s cabinet minister and close confidant has defended the current government to all issues Mwanawasa. Additionally, President Banda himself has categorically pointed out that contrary to what his critics are saying, he has enhanced Mwanawasa’s legacy in the few months that he has been in office.

Talk about preserving Mwanawasa’s legacy has revolved around several things. First, it has been about the fight against corruption which Mwanawasa was very well known for. The prosecution of former President Frederick Chiluba was a clear demonstration on Mwanawasa’s part that he was not going to condone corruption and in this regard no one was above the law. Mwanawasa would routinely suspend most public workers once they are cited for corruption. The second legacy is that of economic development, in the seven years of Mwanawasa’s presidency Zambia’s economy grew rapidly and quickly grew its foreign reserves. With the economic prudence of Mwanawasa’s Finance Minister Ng’andu Magande and Caleb Fundanga, Bank of Zambia governor, the rate of inflation was kept at bay and all economic indicators were positive to say the least. The third legacy that won Mwanawasa’s praise concerns tribal balancing. It is generally admitted that having come from the Lamba and Lenje tribal backgrounds, Mwanawasa was more willing to accommodate Zambians from a whole spectrum of tribes to work with him for the development of Zambia. Mwanawasa’s cabinet was one of the most tribally balanced Cabinet Zambia has ever had in many years.

Proponents like Magande, Mpombo, and Namulambe seem to blame the current government as the sole betrayer of Mwanawasa’s legacy. And indeed Rupiah Banda’s association with former President Frederick Chiluba has not helped matters at all. Rupiah Banda’s association with Chiluba who had a sour relationship with Mwanawasa has not been well received by some of those who were closest to Mwanawasa and who apparently have since been sidelined by Rupiah Banda.

In this article I wish to state that Rupiah Banda and his government should not be blamed for the perceived failure on their part to keep Levy’s legacy. It is my argument that the failure to keep Levy’s legacy lies on Levy himself. I believe this to be so for several reasons.

First, the greatest test of one’s legacy does not lie with the service he rendered alone, but rather by the succession plan he left behind. As such, Levy’s legacy should not be interpreted in terms of the services or activities he did alone. For itself, economic development or the fight against corruption should not be the only measures of Levy’s legacy but rather his succession plan should be considered too. As a politician and lawyer Levy had the opportunity to reflect on his succession. And according to his plan, out of the many brilliant people he had in his MMD and from the general population he went to the village in Chipata to pick a retired politician who had moved to his home village to become his Vice-President. Without even considering whether this was the kind of a person he would like to entrust his legacy to, Levy nevertheless, went ahead and appointed Rupiah Banda to be his number two. As a lawyer Levy knew very well, that a vice-president becomes a defacto president in the event that the president is incapacitated, and as a politician he should have known that an acting president in Zambia, enjoying the gift of incumbency would stand a huge chance of becoming president of Zambia and eventually succeed him. Regardless of how much corruption he was going to fight and regardless of how much Zambia’s economy grew, without a good successor to his presidency all of this good legacy would disappear as soon as Levy passed away.

The second reason is just like the first one, by choosing Rupiah Banda to be his vice-president, Mwanawasa had chosen his legacy. He had chosen the way he was going to be remembered by the people of Zambia. Rupiah Banda was levy’s legacy that he left for Zambia. And blaming Rupiah Banda for not following on Levy’s legacy is very unfortunate and unfair; in fact, Rupiah and Levy had nothing in common. They did not have a shared vision, and they did not have a shared passion. But the fact that Levy chose Rupiah anyway to be his vice-president goes to show how careless or reckless Levy himself was with regard to what he wanted Zambia to remember him by. In Bemba there is a saying which goes; “Ubufumu bucindika umwine” by appointing a person who had nothing in common with himself Levy had shown lack of respect for his own legacy.

Mpombo, Namulambe, Chitala, Magande should give Rupiah Banda a break. For him it was just sangwapo, he was just taken from his farm in Chipata to come and become Levy’s successor. It would be too much to expect anything much from him in the first place.

Thirdly, we could have been talking of something else now, had Levy for example kept Nevers Mumba as vice-president. Nevers is one of a few vice-presidents Levy actually said shared a common vision for Zambia with. Nevers spoke against corruption just as much as Mwanawasa. It is a pity that due to some political and foreign affairs mishap Nevers had to be dropped. He was nevertheless going to be a good legacy from Levy. Ng’andu Magande could have been a good legacy too. Magande as Finance Minister presided over an economy that grew in unprecedented ways. It is also said that Magande was Levy’s preferred successor. It is reported that Mwanawasa had told Magande this, and Levy’s widow Dr. Maureen Mwanawasa broke her customary silence during the mourning of her departed husband to support Magande’s bid to be the MMD’s presidential candidate. But that was not to be, because in as much as Levy preferred Magande to succeed him, he had by choice chosen Rupiah Banda to be his vice-president thereby giving Rupiah the advantage to become the gauge of Levy’s legacy.

We may say whatever we may say, but Rupiah Banda is not entitled to keep Levy’s legacy. To the contrary Rupiah Banda was the greatest legacy that Levy left for Zambia, and only history will tell us what kind of legacy it was. As for now, we know that Rupiah Banda did not share an iota of Levy’s brain.