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!

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6 comments

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  • Mumbi: I definitely agree with you. It is rather sad that these NCC gentlemen have chosen to be so selective. If a degree is so important then why not impose it on Parliament as well. And look at RB he has a degree he acquired almost half a century ago!

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  • Rochelle….Your contributions are so good. I think those people in Zambia need you, you should make plans to visit one of these days. You say that a degree requirement will make the president to invest more in education so that there can be his successor? To the contrary African leaders would want to stay in power until they die!!!! And so if we had such a clause they can deliberately keep the whole population out of university so that there can be no one to challenge them. Indeed education is important, but shouldn't we begin with primary education first? These guys want to jumpt the gun…they want to go for a degree when most of our people cannot even afford to go to primary school, and besides many sharp and intelligent young people cannot go to university because there just aint enough spaces there! If it were like Canada I would definitely say let us have that. And then the question of what degree it should be you have leaned towards the Arts, what about those who have done the sciences? You see this requirement confuses more than it clarifies. But anyway after your degree you should consider going to Zambia and aspire to rule!Take care…

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  • For A Population of 10 Million people that have two universities and Education is not free, is a problem1. A qualification with a degree does not mean that you have better leadership qualities@Rochel by your comments you are assuming that the traits that one picks up during training cannot be picked up anywhere else.2. Most of the conflicts in africa have been caused by a population assuming that there goverments are only open to wealthy and connected people(aristocracy), i am at pains to see how such a move cannot bring this argument3. It is usually a common practice to pick up best practice methods and apply them when implementing such kind constituitional change, looking at the many advanced economies that are there, how many have this kind of law in place? and what success has this brought?4. Zambia has been notorious at enacting laws to undermine personalities, Citizenship Clause on legibility of a presidential Candidate- this was done to Kaunda, Theft of Motor Vehicle being a non Bailable offence(despite this meaning harbeas corpus is being thrown outside the window)- this done for a very vocal opposition member!! now this is being seen as against Mr Michael Sata a very popular opposition leader who seems to have larger appeal to citizens 4. if the Argument is that Presidency needs to be degreed, then the same should be done for parliament and cabinet even positions of permanent secretary( being consistent with arguments, makes the whole issue more confusing than clarrying)

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  • Hey, this is a very interesting topic to have a blog on!First let me start off by saying I know nothing about Zambia asides from what I have read in this article. Being Said, I agree with the NCC and I feel a person who holds a degree would be more qualified for a presidency position than one who does not.1) A university degree is not an easy 'piece of paper' to attain. It takes alot of time, hard work/perseverance and dedication from the individuals. These are all qualities one would hope their president has because large scale change is a very slow progress. A graduate student has proven that they are commited to tasks that are undertaken and they are willing to play their part until the goal is achieved.2)A person with a university degree has shown that they are innovative, critical thinkers. They are capable of thinking outside the box and are very rational. Critical thinking ability is an absolutely necessary component for running a country. Generally a person who is less educated will rely primarily on instincts, emotions, charisma, and have no immediate steps in place to liberate there country. Example. Nazi's Hitler: extremely charismatic, no secondary education… mayham resulted when he reigned.3) I understand your point when you say that many people will not be qualified for the position if a degree is a must. – Instead of looking at the short term stress, lets look long term and see how this might turn in our favor.- If a degree is now mandatory for you to become a president, this means we have placed greater emphasis on education. – If education is now a priority, this new president would intuitively put more programs in place, encouraging students to stay in school so their are enough critical thinkers out there to take over and keep the country functional.He/she now has a real purpose to campaign.If we are promoting education, literacy rate will increase, more institutions will be built to educate the youth and we will ultimately have a more informed population ( politicans or not) capable of making rational decisions.4) The issue pertaining to what degree should be qualified is a rather simple one. We need a standard:- Any degree should be sufficent as long as they have the minimum amount of courses in politics, history and economics(these minimum values should be choosen by a board such that the students are taught enough to have a healthy background).We can not possibly hope to be competitive and move forward if we do not challenge ourselves to be the best. Education is the future and if we do not place a greater emphasis on it and bring it to the forefront, we will regress.

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