Friday, January 29, 2010

Degree clause is unacceptable, says Sacika

Degree clause is unacceptable, says Sacika
By George Chellah
Fri 29 Jan. 2010, 04:00 CAT

SKETCHLEY Sacika has observed that the National Constitutional Conference's (NCC) recommendation that a presidential candidate must be a degree holder is unacceptable because it is a return to the colonialists' discriminatory political philosophy. And Sacika stated that the constitution-making process at the NCC lacks a philosophical context.

Commenting on the degree clause, Sacika, who is also former Secretary to the Cabinet demanded that it was time to stop the machinations of what he termed as 'our Zambian Welenskys'.

“Before 1964, Africans in this country could not take part in the elections to the Legislative Council unless they possessed a certain level of education; unless they were in regular employment and unless they could prove that they owned property of a certain value.

As a result, only a handful of Africans took part in the electoral process, and Roy Welensky, the leader of the white settlers, justified this on the grounds that it was necessary to keep the government in civilised hands,” Sacika stated.

“Our struggle for independence was about the franchise. It was about empowering ourselves to elect our representatives to the organs of the state; to stand in those elections and to form a representative government. We achieved this in 1964 and since then we have enjoyed a franchise, which imposes little restrictions on those who want to participate in politics.

The recommendation by the NCC that Zambians wishing to stand for elective office should have a grade 12 Certificate or a university degree, is therefore, unacceptable because it is a return to the discriminatory political system which we rejected in 1964.

“What is the difference between what Roy Welensky espoused and what the NCC is trying to achieve? None whatsoever! Simply stated, what the NCC is saying is that the government of Zambia should be a preserve of a privileged minority of men and women who have been to colleges and universities and this is not different from Roy Welensky's political philosophy that government should be in civilised hands. Is it really sensible for anyone to say to his fellow Zambian: “You can take part in elections as an elector but you cannot stand for elective office because you are not educated?” He stated that in Zambia's system of party politics, parties would always strive to select the best men and women to stand on their tickets because they knew that in their collective wisdom Zambians would not vote for people who did not deserve their vote.

“Therefore the fear that Zambia could end up with a Parliament full of Bakaponya is misplaced and quite unrealistic,” he stated. He stated that what was happening at the NCC was not making sense at all.

“And it is time to put a stop to the machinations of our 'Zambian Welenskys'. A process of constitution-making which deprives the citizens of rights or privileges they have already acquired under the existing constitution is an injustice which must be rejected and condemned by all right thinking people. Instead of imposing further restrictions on the franchise, the NCC should declare Lozi, Bemba, Tonga and Nyanja as official languages so that they can be used as working languages in Parliament alongside English,” he stated. He stated that the constitution-making process at the NCC lacked a philosophical context.

“As a result the delegates are making a constitution which suits them and not a constitution which is in line with the aspirations of the people. The constitution being made does not provide solutions to the problems of poor governance; it does not deepen and broaden the rights of citizens and it does not change the structure of government. If the status quo is maintained, how are we going to improve the way we manage our national affairs?” Sacika asked.

“The suggestion by the NCC that the failure of our government to function properly is due to the low levels of education of our law makers and political leaders is the clearest indication that the men and women making our constitution do not understand the nature of the problem before them. Education, in a broad sense is everything that is learned and acquired in a lifetime; habits, knowledge, skills, interests, attitudes and personality.

“People become educated not merely by attending schools but by the total experiences of life. As for politics, the best education is that which people acquire through life's experiences and no grade 12 or university degree can train a person to be a politician.

As far as I am concerned, therefore, our men and women in Parliament are all highly educated people who are failing to function effectively because of the dysfunctional nature of our system of government.”

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