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 2009-09-06 04:55 am Back to NEWS
Caution NCC against entrenching discriminatory clauses Harrington

WILLIAM Harrington yesterday stated that it is sad that the NCC is proposing to introduce an obnoxious and draconian clause that requires one to be a degree holder to qualify for President of the Republic of Zambia. Harrington, a former Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission (CRC) commissioner, stated that the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) should be cautioned against entrenching discriminatory clauses in the proposed new constitution if it had to be acceptable to the people through the Referendum.

"The proposal that for one to qualify as a candidate for the office of President, one must be a degree holder is discriminatory against the majority of Zambians. There is therefore need for the NCC to recognise and respect the terms of reference given to the Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission (CRC) by the late visionary Republican president Mr Levy Patrick Mwanawasa SC, amongst them, to identify and remove discriminatory clauses in the current Constitution," Harrington stated. "In line with the expressed wishes of the people, the CRC did not propose that for one to qualify as candidate for the office of President, one must be a degree holder. Not surprisingly also, the Chona and Mvunga and Mwanakatwe Constitution Commissions did not recommend that one must be a degree holder to qualify for presidency.

"It is sad to learn now that the NCC is proposing to introduce an obnoxious and draconian clause that one must be a degree holder to qualify for President of the Republic of Zambia. This is clearly and blatantly against the spirit of previous Commissions, the Mungomba CRC terms of reference and recommendations, and most importantly, the expressed will of the people."

He stated that the NCC should find time to study and understand the spirit of the CRC recommendations and draft constitution.

"Failure to which the new Constitution risks being rejected by the Zambian people at the referendum stage. This predictable eventuality will be most unfortunate considering the huge financial expenditure on the CRC and indeed the NCC itself," Harrington stated. "I also find it rather strange and incomprehensible that the NCC members, the vast majority of whom are themselves not degree holders, with all due respect, can "shoot themselves in the foot" by introducing such a clause in the new Constitution thereby disqualifying themselves. Many NCC members come from diverse professional backgrounds and fields of competence, which could be of great benefit to the country at Presidential level."

Harrington explained that one might be a suitable president if one possesses the necessary political acumen to lead the country in a transparent, accountable, law-abiding and non-corrupt manner.

"Many successful farmers and businessmen in the country are not necessarily degree holders but posses prudent management skills. One may argue further that having a degree holder for president is not a guarantee for good-governance and respect for the principle of separation of powers, the rule of law, human rights and sustainable socio-economic development. As evident in certain parts of Africa and the world at large, some degree-holder presidents have become economic plunderers and despotic rulers, putting their countries on their knees and turning citizens into desperate fugitives and refugees," Harrington stated. "It is also ironic and interesting to note that whilst it is being proposed that a president must be a degree holder, it is non-degree holders who are being entrusted to determine the destiny of our country through the adoption of our proposed Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The point I am attempting to make is that surely there are many amongst the NCC members themselves and outside who can competently lead our country. How can anyone expect vast majority of Zambian voters who are also non-degree holders and therefore be disqualified from contesting for the Republican presidency be "educated enough" to vote into office a degree-holder for president?

"And what type of degree are we talking about? In today's world one can obtain a degree from a bona-fide institution such as UNZA or CBU, or buy one from some dubious institution in a West African or Asian country? One can also solicit for and be awarded an honorary degree from such sources. Will possession of all such degrees qualify one to be president? What about a degree in micro-biology or nuclear science? Will these necessarily make one a competent president? And of what benefit will it be for Zambia to have a president who does not understand the meaning of the word "nullity" for example?"

He stated that the morality and logic of the proposed presidential clause was highly questionable and certainly not in the best interests of the nation.

"Notwithstanding the perception that it has created in political and public circles that it is mischievously targeted at certain individuals who may pose a threat to the interests of the current ruling party," stated Harrington.

(The Post)

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