Amended Constitution unfair to civil servants – Mbula

The amended Constitution, which was assented to by President Edgar Lungu last Tuesday, requires civil servants aspiring to become councillors and members of parliament to resign three years before contesting elections.

Mbula, the former secretary to the Cabinet, said in an interview that the clause was unfair to good civil servants that wanted to contest political office.

He said the period which they were required to resign was long and proposed three months before elections.

“What does a civil servant do when he resigns and election time comes? What guarantee is there that he is going to be adopted? In my view, civil servants will understand maybe six months before or three months before parliament is dissolved. When you are out for three years, you go to the doldrums. If the thinking is to let them leave early so that they don’t take resources from the coffers, that’s a different matter, but generally speaking, I feel it will be unfair to let these people be in the wilderness,” Mbula said.

He said most civil servants would not support the clause because it had caught them unawares.

“Many of them have been caught unawares; those that had political ambitions. Dissolution of parliament is within three months before the elections are held and if there is an occurrence of a Presidential position within 90 days, they should elect a new president. So three months seems to be a very reasonable period. I don’t know whether they had something in mind to give three years, maybe so that they don’t take with them the secrets of the civil service. I don’t know but in all fairness to the people that will be involved, I mean, unless you are 55, you are about to retire, that is different; but if they are still young vibrant civil servants to let them retire three years before they can contest an election, I think there’s a problem for them,” Mbula said.

On the grade 12 certificate as a minimum requirement for one to qualify to contest as councillor and member of parliament, Mbula said such a clause could only work well in advanced countries.

He said the clause would have problems because a few people in rural areas have completed and possess grade 12 certificates.

“If you take Soliland and Lambaland, the rural secondary schools are filled with people that come from town. Very few local people are there and consequently, very few local people in those places have grade 12 certificates, so it is already a disadvantage to them. It means local people will not be able to contest because of this requirement. It is okay for the urban ones, there’s no shortage but they should have considered the rural ones, but certainly there is need for people to be literate. The principle is alright but the timing may not be the best,” said Mbula. 

 

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