Friday, 8 January 2016

Zambian Politicians Panic As Grade 12 Requirement Is Enforced

By Paul Shalala
A photoshoped photo of Mr Mwamba in a graduation gown

It came as surprise to the nation but it wasn’t so to the 158 Members of Parliament (MP) who sit in the Zambian legislature.

Towards the end of 2015, MPs debated and voted for the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill which ushered in a number of new electoral rules that took effect on 5th January, 2016.

One of those regulations is the requirement for all people aspiring to contest as President, Members of Parliament or Councillors to have a Grade 12 certificate.

This certificate is obtained after a pupil sits for examinamtions after studying the senior secondary school curriculum.

For example, Article 70 (4) states that a person is eligible to be elected as an MP if they have obtained a minimum qualification of a Grade 12 certificate or the equivalent.

This new regulation has sent many politicians into panic as they are generally seen not to be well educated.

Recent media reports even indicated that some parliamentarians had even approached the presidency to try and intervene but in the end President Edgar Lungu assented to the bill to make it into law.
Fr. Bwalya's Facebook status

Kasama Central MP Geoffrey Mwamba (above), a former Minister of Defence and now an opposition strongman, is widely believed not to possess the Grade 12 certificate and young people on social media have been mocking him as a result.

Despite technically still being a ruling Patriotic Front (PF) lawmaker, Mr Mwamba, who is popularly known as GBM and is one of the richest businessmen in the country, picked up a position in the opposition UPND as party Vice President, a move which has made him an enemy within his party.

PF Chairman for Information Frank Bwalya was one of the first people to mock Mr Mwamba saying the lawmaker actually dropped out before reaching Grade 7.

The Catholic Priest, who practiced journalism before joining fulltime politics a few years ago, took to social media to allege that the Kasama Central lawmaker was actually a Grade 6 drop out.

“…..GBM is infact a Grade six term three drop out at Chifwani Primary School in Kasama,” wrote Fr Bwalya on his Facebook page (see above left).

Potpher Tembo's Facebook status
Fr Bwalya is not the only one who has taken to social media to talk about the alleged little education Mr Mwamba allegedly has.

Several youths on Facebook have been posting a photoshopped photo of Mr Mwamba in a graduation gown with an inscription that he is eligible to run for Parliament later this year when general elections are held on 11th August.

But on 6th January, Mr Mwamba held a press briefing in Lusaka where he mocked the ruling party and confirmed he had a Grade 12 certificate and was ready to re-contest his seat during the general elections.

“I cant wait for the filing of nominations so that I can prove that am qualified beyond the needed Grade 12 certificate. This issue was raised in 2011 but those who thought [former President Michael] Sata had no degree were shocked to learn he had the qualifications,” said Mr Mwamba as his supporters cheered in agreement.

But according to records at the National Assembly of Zambia (Parliament), the Kasama Central lawmaker entered his details for secondary school.

A screenshot of Parliament website
The website (left) confirms that he is a Form V, the older version of Grade 12 which was used in the old school curriculum.

And some ’brave’ politicians also took to social media to confirm that they had the certificates and were ready to contest the forthcoming polls.

The Deputy Mayor of Zambia’s Capital city Lusaka was one of the first people to unveil his education qualifications.

Potpher Tembo, who is a Councillor for Chawama Ward Three, announced to his supporters that he was well above the requirement.

Keli Walubita on his qualifications
“I have a full Grade 12 certificate 1994 intake Nyimba Secondary School 12Y. Am also a holder of qualifications in Journalism, Banking, Counselling, Diplomacy, Leadership and an honourary doctorate in Political Science,” stated Mr Tembo (see above right).

Zambia Redemption Front President Keli Walubita Jr also took disclosed his credentials.

“Am not only a holder of a full Grade 12 certificate attained from Hillcrest National Technical Secondary School but a Chartered Member of the London Institute of Procurement and Supply plus being a trained Security Officer,” wrote Mr Walubita Jr, a son of a former Foreign Affairs Minister who shares the same names (see screenshot on the left).

For common Zambians, this education requirement for aspiring candidates has become a good talking point.

Many are posting jokes about it and making it look like it’s a comedy show.

A Zambian mocking politicians
In the previous law, those aspiring as Councillors and Members of parliament only needed to be literate: able to read and write, for them to contest elections.

Former MMD National Secretary Richard Kachingwe has condemned the law saying uneducated leaders have achieved a lot in other countries better than those perceived to be well educated.

“This is a constitution that has basically barred all our able community leaders such as humble marketeers, bus drivers and basically the majority voters….. We all know that leadership is not necessarily measured by one’s educational qualifications or a number of degrees,” stated Major Kachingwe in a press release.

“A number of our great leaders in the world and even in this country at local and even parliamentary levels have done far greater things and achieved more success than our so-called educated people.”

A number of sitting MPs and dozens of aspiring parliamentary and local government candidates have been knocked out of this year's general elections due to lack of a Grade 12 certificate.

According to observers, the coming of the Grade 12 clause is expected to boost the number of politicians enrolling for evening classes to prepare for the 2021 general elections. 

But this is not the first time the issue of education qualifications has become a topic of debate just before a general election in Zambia.

Another screenshot about politicians
Prior to the 2011 general elections, a similar situation unfolded where the MMD government, through the National Constitution Conference (NCC), pushed a recommendation for a presidential candidate to have a first degree for them to qualify for the highest office in the land.

The NCC was a body made up of MPs, civil society and other interest groups which was reviewing the Zambian constitution to try and adopt a new one.

To some observers, this proposal was aimed at barring then opposition leader Michael Sata who was rumoured not to have a degree.

In the thick of things, Mr Sata disclosed that he had over the years acquired two degrees under distance education.

This prompted the degree clause to fall off during the NCC deliberations.

 Mr Sata later beat the MMD during the elections on 20th September, 2011 and led Zambia for three years until his death in October 2014.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Zambia Adopts New Electoral Rules, Sets Elections On 11 August

By Paul Shalala
President Lungu assenting to the Constitution Bill

Zambia has today adopted a new set of electoral laws that has set a new date for the forthcoming general elections and introduced what has been described as 'progressive clauses.'

This afternoon, Zambian President Edgar Lungu assented to the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill of 2015 which has come with several laws that had been eluding the Zambian people for decades.

Since the 1990s, Zambians had been submitting to countless Constitution Review Commissions to amend the electoral laws which date back to the colonial days.

Some of the laws Zambians have been seeking to be done away with include the first-past-the-post-takes-all electoral system and the appointment of a republican Vice President by the head of state.

Despite draft constitutions and reports being produced and circulated, successive governments have not been acting on the recommendations, rendering the whole constitution making process dead for years.

The signing ceremony was held this afternoon at the Chinese made National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka, a site where the Zambian head of state was inaugurated as the country's sixth President 12 months ago after winning a tightly contested poll following the demise of Michael Sata.

"There comes a time when people's cries on an issue must come to an end....... As leaders, we have to listen to the voice of the people..... When i was being sworn in as President last year, i promise to give you a new constitution and here it is," said President Lungu.

He also reiterated his desire to have the rest of the draft constitution be passed through a referendum that he has tied to the next general elections set for later this year.

When the bill was tabled before parliament at the end of 2015, the ruling Patriotic Front allied itself with the opposition MMD to gunner the much needed votes to pass the bill which was opposed by the opposition UPND, FDD and ADD.

And in his speech, President Lungu acknowledged the role the MMD parliamentarians played.

"The MMD gives me hope with its civic roles it played in the house," he said as MMD President Nevers Mumba who was seated in the VIP section of the stadium nodded his head.

Among the electoral reforms the new law has brought is the 50 plus one majoritarian election of a president and the Vice President Running mate clause.

The new laws have set second Thursday of August every after five years as the election date.

This means that this year, Zambians will vote for their new President, Members of Parliament and Councillors on 11th August.

In the old constitution, Zambia's Presidents had the power to set an election date which stakeholders had complained that it was being used to disadvantage the opposition.

Further, the law has also adopted dual citizenship, a concept that scores of Zambians have been crying for, especially those in the diaspora.

To the delight of many, the requirement for all presidential candidates to have both their parents being born in Zambia has been scrapped off.

This is a law that was passed in the 1990s which many say was targeted at Zambia's founding father Dr. Kenneth Kaunda from participating in elections after he lost the 1991 democratic elections.

Despite this milestone for good governance campaigners, several civil society organisations and opposition political parties were opposed to the adoption of these progressive laws through parliament.

Operating under a loose consortium calling itself the Grand Coalition on The Enactment of a People Driven Constitution, non-governmental organisations even picketed parliament to block the bill last year.

On 23rd October 2014 when the final draft constitution was released, government announced it will adopt the contentious closes through Parliament and later subject the whole document to a national referendum.

But the Grand Coalition opposed the move opting for a referendum to adopt the whole document before the general elections.

Even after the bill was passed by law makers, the Grand Coalition even called on President Lungu not to assent to it.

With the enactment of these laws, the bigger job of enacting the whole constitution still lies ahead.

Zambia Parliament in session
The Bill of Rights, whose review triggers a referendum, is yet to be put on the ballot and as promised by President Lungu, will be voted together with candidates for President, Members of Parliament and Councillors on 11th August.

In May 2015, Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula announced that government had appointed Commissioners of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) as members of the Referendum Commission.

This means that the ECZ will conduct the 2016 General Elections simultaneously with the referendum on the constitution.

According to the Referendum Act, all Zambians in possession of the green National Registration Card are eligible to vote in the referendum which is usually conducted in a YES or NO fashion.