By Given Mutinta
Our country is in the process of discussing a new constitution. This exercise is led by a technical group of connoisseurs appointed by government.
The exercise is in response to a plea for a more democratic political dispensation in the country.
One of the issues that should be negotiated is a clause on the requirements for presidential candidates.
In addition to the presidential candidate being a Zambian citizen, with both his parents being Zambians by birth or descent, and other requirements, there is need to include a clause on a presidential candidate being able to pass mental and personality tests.
It is one way of ensuring that the presidency is always held to a higher standard in terms of its importance in national leadership.
Taking into account the vast duties required of a president; being the commander in chief, chief diplomat, chief legislator, chief executive, moral leader, party leader, and manager of wealth, it is only reasonable that he undergoes mental and personality assessments before taking office.
This is to make certain that a candidate is mentally and behaviourally able to properly perform the job and cope with the high demand of the office he is seeking.
Once a presidential candidate has filed in his nomination for the presidential contest to the Returning Officer and Chief Justice, the State through an independent medical and health organization should screen the presidential aspirant. It should be a genteel medical procedure that is non-negotiable.
Then, the State should be able to disqualify a candidate whose health conditions do not equal the demands of the presidency.
As an alternative, the mental and personality vetting can be done at the political party level before a candidate files in his nomination to the Supreme Court.
On the basis of the medical report from an independent medical body, a political party should be able to disqualify a candidate with adversative health conditions and keep the diagnosis confidential.
The mental and personality tests should also be extended to a person seeking a ministerial position.
A candidate should be tested using instruments that reveal the core competencies. In particular, the overall intelligence quotient (IQ) of a candidate should be tested using for example the wechsler adult intelligence scale.
In addition, a candidate should be tested for any pathological mental illnesses such as psychopathy and sociopathy using personality inventory instruments.
The test would help to ensure that a candidate who is not fit to effectively perform their duties by ‘virtue’ of their inanity, pettiness, arrogance, brutality, spite, and other vices is disqualified from the presidential race.
It is clear that anyone with such characteristics would make a dangerous leader. Traits of arrogance, brutality, favouritism, callousness, and others demonstrate how destructive a candidate can be if elected to the esteemed position.
Through mental and personality tests a candidate blinded by negative traits that he is unable to exercise rational judgment in national and worldly matters can be counselled on his inability.
On account of the value of the presidency, an aspirant should also have the mental and neuropsychological tests to ensure that a candidate who suffers from ‘wet brain’ a trait of chronic substance abuse is disqualified.
It is a known fact that substance abuse impairs cognitive functioning, sense of morality, planning, organization, abstraction, and other faculties.
Substance abuse is also one of the causes of exceedingly inflexible mind sets, unwillingness to change for the better and to lie to cover up lack of knowledge on any issues.
However, it is not everyone with mental and personality challenges who should be barred from contesting presidential elections. Only a candidate with conditions such as sociopathy and pathological selfishness should be disqualified. He can be destructive if given a high public positions and can cause unnecessary suffering to many people.
Even an aspirant with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder should be excluded.
This does not mean that such a person is ‘useless’. He can still serve the country in other positions.
There is no doubt that some of the distinguished and most innovative people are those with mental and personality challenges. But for the common good, they should not be considered for the presidency.
This would be a sure way of circumventing leaders who can display their downright insensitivity by embarrassing our country whenever they are in contact with people especially world leaders.
We need mental and personality tests to secure the presidency from reprehensible, dishonourable and disgraceful behaviours.
The solemnity of the presidency should be safeguarded from personality-disordered, and generally depraved presidential candidates.
It is sad when a president has belligerent and offensive manners that wound the citizenry’s national pride.
It is lack of mental and personality tests for presidential runners that it is a worldwide phenomenon to hear many citizens dub their leaders as ‘the worst president ever’ nationally and internationally.
Mental and personality tests can help to thwart candidates who can sink low the office of the president.
Leaders who ‘mock’ public offices make it difficult for people to ‘comprehend’ that men such as Kenneth Kaunda, Rupiya Banda and Levy Mwanawasa held the position with such stateliness, decorum, grandeur, dignity and respect that many countries admired our country.
Based on the knowledge we have on what we want in a president, and the absolute obliviousness and uncouthness of how leaders can be, presidential candidates should have mental and personality tests.
It is a risk to national security and development to have leaders who rupture once in State House and make all the wrong decisions when the right ones are needed most.
The electorate has the right to be given a wide choice of sound presidential candidates to choose from. Just like public leaders’ physical health is a public concern, why not their mental and personality health as well?