Saturday, February 20, 2010

Zukas explains why he rejects NCC’s degree clause

Zukas explains why he rejects NCC’s degree clause
By Mwala Kalaluka
Sat 20 Feb. 2010, 04:00 CAT

Zukas said the 'degree clause' was taking the country back to the Welensky days.
VETERAN politician Simon Zukas has said he rejects the National Constitutional Conference's presidential degree clause because it is targeted against popular PF leader Michael Sata by a government that fears competition.

And UNZA political and administrative studies lecturer Dr Alex Ng'oma has argued that Zambia will not have a constitution that stands the test of time if people continue to look at faces during the formulation process.

During a Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD)/ Press Freedom Committee (PFC) of The Post-organised public discussion on the presidential degree clause in Lusaka last Wednesday, Zukas said the requirement was taking the country back to the Welensky days.

“We need this degree qualification in order to set a target for our youths that are being educated so that they can aspire to get a degree if they want to reach the top post in the land,” Zukas said.

“However, I think that there are…less complicated ways of encouraging children to improve their academic qualifications. From that point of view, I will reject that the condition that candidates for the presidency should have a degree. Well, maybe a degree would be useful, but a degree in what? I think that a degree in integrity, in ethics, in conflict resolution, that might be just useful to have as a qualification for a presidential candidate. I consider just a degree not good enough.”

Zukas said a president with a degree could end up being the most efficient plunderer of national resources. He said Zambia was being thrown back to the Roy Welensky days when the purpose then was to keep people out of the voting system.

“I see history repeating itself in having a clause that is targeted towards an individual, a likely candidate for presidency who has popularity with whom we are afraid to compete,” Zukas said.

He said this was the case with the parentage clause that was included in the 1996 Constitution, whose sole purpose was to keep out Dr Kenneth Kaunda from the election.

“This (presidential degree clause) is being targeted against Mr Michael Sata because of his popularity and because of certain governments fearing competition. So on that ground, I reject it,” Zukas said.

But a policy expert, Dr Weston Mafuleka, said being popular was not akin to suitability for the presidency.

“I am an academician and I will not take part in the rivalry between and among people that are fighting for power,” Dr Mafuleka said. “My views are based on what I think is best for the country.”

Dr Mafuleka said he supported the presidential degree requirement because a president was supposed to be a fulcrum.

“I think the president is a generalist,” Dr Mafuleka said. “He is somebody who is broadly read.”

Dr Mafuleka said Zambia had undergone qualitative change in terms of knowledge and skills in the 46 years of independence. He urged Zambians to utilise the human resource that had been churned out from public universities that were started by the founding fathers who never went far in their education.

“They have done that job and let them also allow their children that they have prepared to get into those functions,” Dr Mafuleka said. “Think of a president as a chief diplomat even without delegating the functions. If he is insufficiently enlightened, he will be outwitted by his opposing interlocutors.”

Dr Mafuleka said a first degree was part of capacity building for a future president of Zambia.

“He is the only one who claims the whole country as his constituency,” he said.

Dr Mafuleka said concerns that the degree clause was discriminatory could not stand because all forms of democracy were discriminatory.

In his presentation, Mung'omba CRC commissioner, William Harrington said he does not subscribe to the notion that anybody with a degree could make a good president.

“The clause is not necessary and it is a cause of conflict and it is discriminatory,” Harrington said. “Not everybody is going to attain a university degree because of the circumstances but age is a natural phenomenon.”

He said it was assumptive that everybody with a degree could know everything.
“Zambia's education system is not developed enough to warrant such a clause,” Harrington said.

He said the degree clause was yet again a betrayal of the desires and aspirations of Zambians.
And Dr Ng'oma said the problem with the current constitutional process was that it did not have the interest of all Zambians at heart.

“What I see in our country is a situation whereby if I do not like you, I will look for something to throw at you,” Dr Ng'oma said.

“It is a big mistake in my view to entrench in the constitution that a presidential hopeful must be a holder of a first degree.”

He said it would be unfair and unwise to accommodate such a clause in the constitution.

“We actually look at faces. If it is a person you hate, we quickly come up with something that will stop that person to get involved in active politics,” said Dr Ng'oma.

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