By Gerald Katayi
The qualifications of a presidential candidate are that, He or she should be a citizen by birth or descent; does not have dual citizenship… Has a minimum academic qualification, a first degree or its equivalent from a recognized university or institution…Draft constitution, 2010.
This clause from the draft constitution has brought some disagreements and criticisms from many sectors of our society. Here are some of the reactions: This author writing for the Post said;
“Whoever came up with the degree factor for presidential candidates may just have been exhumed from political hallucinations. There is nowhere in scholarly works and experience where a presidential candidate is disqualified on grounds of academic qualifications. There is no leadership book that stresses academic qualification; it is just a bonus allowing for better choices in the election process.”(Post, 29th January, 2010). Here is another one from an opposition political player. “Patriotic Front (PF) leader Michael Sata yesterday vowed that a degree or piece of paper will not stand in the way of his political aspirations. Sata described the move as nonsense and further waste of precious time by individuals suffering from an inferiority complex. Post, Jan, 22, 2010.
A blogger on this topic also contributed saying, “Zambia is a developing country and for this, it’s going through a lot of constraints where being educated is one. The appeal may be if you say a degree is important in Zambian politics, then the voters should also be those that have attended up to some level (of education) because it’s useless for the uneducated to participate in voting because they have been segregated”. Another blogger, “Yes, you do need a degree. We need to set standards in our country. Our lack of progress has been partly because of having uneducated chaps leading us. How can you understand basic economic terms and models if you never went to university? Let the ones with no degrees go and run tuntembas and the educated run our country”.
“Chief Nyamphande said Zambians should not be carried away by a person’s academic qualifications because even people with minimum qualifications could make good leaders.
“You know some people have been to universities but they are absolute idiots. So don’t be carried away by academic qualifications”. Chief Mumbi said the issue of having degree holders as presidential candidates could only work out if the country had a well developed education system.” If you say this should be adopted in the constitution then you the rural folk and your children will not be presidents”. Here is another one from a priest: Petauke’s St Oscars Catholic assistant parish priest Fr Bonaventure Kamlewe said the degree clause should not be enshrined in the constitution because it was highly discriminatory. Fr Kamlewe said leadership mostly depends on upbringing.(Post, July 22, 2010)
After reading all this, my question is, why then do people go to school for? Why do companies require their managers to have certain credentials to be hired? What is the diving line between managers and general workers? Is it not education? When George Washington said, “The power under the Constitution will always be in the people.” The “people” here are not uninformed citizens. When the nation’s citizens are enlightened, the choice of a leader is not cumbersome. The leader will always be accountable to the electorate. But when this is vise versa then that nation is headed for doom. Education gives light and empowerment. Bill Gates had good ideas, but he needed educated people to help his dream come to pass.
An old adage says, “In a land of the blind a man with one eye is king”. Biblically, it was asked, how can the blind lead the blind? James Madison, 1822 said this. “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” The important part of this quote is that “knowledge will forever govern ignorance”. A centaury ago when slavery was rife, a white man believed that if you want to hind anything from a black man, “put it in a book”. This is 2010 and some people are still celebrating ignorance.
Political parties and some NGOs should arm the electorate with power which knowledge gives. The government also should take the lead to use radio and TV to educate their citizenry on matters of governance. A voter should be well informed and a leader should be well educated.
The excuse of lack of higher education in Zambia should not be taken seriously. At least every district in Zambia has a secondary school. After high school, an individual is mature enough to understand the importance of education, if he or she is willing to improve academically, chances are there that the individual can do evening classes, online or correspondence. Those with an ambition to be president should be hard workers; they should achieve personal goals before they try that of a nation. The Bible says, those who aspire for leadership in the church, first they should prove that they are good leaders at home. How can a candidate fail in his personal endeavors and think he can understand the multifaceted problems of a nation?
Is the clause discriminatory? May be not; discrimination can only come into play when a candidate is segregated because of race, tribe, religion, gender and ethnicity. When education is a requirement for any position, in church, government or company, that is not discrimination; otherwise companies will be employing ill qualified people in sensitive positions. How can you employ an engineer to be an accountant? So if you don’t employ the engineer for the position of an accountant then you decimating against such a candidate?
Only a few people end up being presidents, therefore, anyone who desires to be president should be a professional person in his or her own rite. Even in chiefdom, not anyone can be a chief in spite of him being from the royal family. The candidate should “qualify” and be “learned” in the traditions of that tribe.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Let the clause stand!