Thursday, January 28, 2010

Logic behind NCC’s degree clause is myopic – Miyanda

Logic behind NCC’s degree clause is myopic – Miyanda
By George Chellah
Thu 28 Jan. 2010, 04:01 CAT

HERITAGE Party leader Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda yesterday described the logic behind the National Constitutional Conference (NCC)'s recommendation that a presidential candidate must be a degree holder as myopic.

Commenting on the recent contentious resolutions from the NCC, Brig Gen Miyanda stated that the two resolutions by the NCC regarding the voting system and the first-degree myth indicate that they had reverted to their favourite pastime of tying themselves in knots and creating controversy where there should be none.

He stated that unfortunately the NCC had now mischievously resorted to debating in secrecy by stopping the live and daily television broadcasts that contributed to transparency.

“They are hiding something!” he stated. He stated that on the degree myth, the NCC had decided without reference to the real job description of the President.

“You cannot prescribe qualifications without considering the nature or functions of the job. I have said before that the president is not an economist; he or she is not an engineer, a doctor, nor even a lawyer though definitely a general as he or she is the Commander-In-Chief. We can glean the job description of the President from Article 44 of the Constitution as read with Article 33. The President is the Head of State, Head of Government as well as the Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Force,” Brig Gen Miyanda stated. “This job description entails wisdom, leadership and concern for the security of the state and its entire people.

But I venture to say that he or she is not a CEO in the conventional sense, otherwise he or she would find it difficult to manage the country because of the wide span of control of government structures, ministries and various departments, which is wider than the usual or standard spans. The misconception is that because we have an Executive presidency, this suggests that the President has to directly manage the departments below him. He or she is more of a chairman of the board (Cabinet) rather than a managing director or CEO.”

He stated that he had served in government for ten years as a Cabinet minister, vice-president and acting president.

“At no time was there need for me to use a calculator or to solve a puzzle created by Einstein! We must demystify the Presidency, a position whose primary purpose is the preservation of our sovereignty, nationhood, security and well being of all our people. The President is the focal point for the coordination of the defence and security of the country, government and state and ensuring that all the citizens enjoy the fruits of independence regardless of their station in life or political status. The President must have empathy, compassion, concern for all the people and above all love of the Motherland. What degree is this and where does one get it from?

Article 44 enjoins the President to perform his functions with “dignity and leadership”,” Brig Gen Miyanda stated. “When we are looking for a president we are not looking for a woman, a youth, a disabled, an old or educated person but we are looking for a leader. But now see how myopic the logic of the degree myth is: why should an accountant who is not a degree holder be prevented from being a president since logically he or she will understand the figures being banded about by the IMF and the ministry of finance? Even journalists now have to be degree holders to practice journalism if the Media Bill goes through. And what of the corruption that seems to be endemic - is the degree holder insulated? Come Zambians, the NCC has botched it and will later have to be forced to indicate which specific degree is appropriate for a presidential candidate!”

Brig Gen Miyanda observed that it was imperative to identify the problem that they were purporting to solve regarding the “one past the post” and “fifty per cent plus one” as well as the degree issues.

“It seems the problem is the assurance of democracy on the one hand and prevention of rigging on the other. Accusing our two friends “Mr One Past the Post” and “Mrs Fifty Plus One” of being responsible for the usual electoral frauds and chaos is like accusing money of being responsible for the misery and evils that Zambians are facing. It does not make sense to accuse an inert thing of wrongdoing and leave man, the real culprit, to get away scot-free. To say, as the protagonists on each side of the argument are saying, that “One Past the Post” is democratic and assures stability is as misleading as saying “Fifty Plus One” will prevent rigging.

These two propositions are neither constitutional question nor are they legal ones. They are merely what people with evil motives do when they circumvent the law. Electoral disputes are the result of fraud and cheating and disregarding existing electoral laws and regulations,” Brig Gen Miyanda stated. “For each of these systems to succeed depends on the integrity of those participating and those managing the elections and not on the system itself. Peace comes when people are contented that the system is transparent and devoid of bribery and abuse of government officers and resources. To rig an election is to arrange the outcome of the result to the rigger's advantage.

The most difficult rigging to trace is the one that takes place well in advance of the election. One way this has been done is to create an in-built majority at the time of registration of voters. In the past it used to be said that refugees and foreigners in border areas were given priority in getting National Registration Cards, thus illegally granting them citizenship and enabling them to register as voters.

“This is a serious question that each successive government has refused or neglected to address. The “Fifty per cent plus One” argument does not take this into account. Another way is the swapping of ballot boxes between centres. Then there is the stuffing of pre-marked ballot papers; but with the use of transparent boxes this is getting less prevalent. But it still takes place in remote places where the opposition do not have election agents.

The answer is for government to provide funding for the payment of election agents for all participating parties and transport. This is necessary for safeguarding our democracy. The Heritage Party had proposed this to the ECZ last year but it was not considered favourably. Additionally the advent of technology has brought with it electronic tampering which is a real menace because nowadays even computers take part in voting! This is more difficult to detect.”
Brig Gen Miyanda stated that the fraud in the electoral process was the real source of conflict after every election.

“In view of this, the arguments so far for and against the “One Past the Post” and the “Fifty Plus One” systems are not tenable. When electing the president they say that it is undemocratic to do so by less than “50 per cent plus one”; but when electing MPs and Councillors they continue to use “One Past the Post” and this passes as democratic! How come? Receiving 50 per cent plus one vote does not guarantee that the successful candidate will not turn into a chameleon and start abusing and mistreating people,” stated Brig Gen Miyanda.

“It is not the system that creates democracy but the character and conduct of those elected and entrusted with leadership. As was once said by Professor Maliyamkono of Tanzania “there can be no democracy without democrats”. Both systems may work and achieve the intended result; but the “One Past the Post” has the added advantage of not having to repeat the voting.”

The NCC recently unanimously adopted a clause that requires a presidential candidate to have a first degree.

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