NCC removes degree clause in draft constitution
THE National Constitutional Conference (NCC) yesterday backtracked on its earlier decision to include a university degree in the draft constitution as one of the minimum academic qualifications for a Republican presidential candidate.
And the NCC has finally agreed to include water, food and shelter as basic human rights in the draft constitution.
Before the NCC adjourned on April 29 this year, delegates had inserted the degree clause as opposed to the Willa Mung’omba constitution review commission’s proposal of a minimum of a Grade 12 certificate.
According to Article 108 clause 1 (e) of the draft constitution, “A person shall be qualified to be a candidate for election as President if that person has obtained, as a minimum academic qualification, a first degree or its equivalent from a recognised university or institution.”
Of the 239 petitioners who submitted, 57 supported the clause while 182 opposed it.
And leading the onslaught, commissioner Divo Katete argued that the clause was discriminatory.
“If you look at our education system today, it does not provide free education up to university level. There are a lot of intelligent people out there who may not have degrees but they are intelligent,” Katete observed.
“Besides, we have colleges such as Evelyn Hone College which only provide diplomas. So, are we saying that graduates from these colleges should not be presidents? Let’s revisit this issue and revert to the current qualifications.”
Katete’s views were supported by, among others, UNIP vice-president Njekwa Anamela, chieftainess Nkomesha Mukamambo III, veteran politician Chrispin Sibeta and Vice-President George Kunda.
Vice-President Kunda said: “I think this clause is a bad clause. It has been well articulated by those who have opposed it, and we agree with them. Let us maintain the status quo.”
At voting time, the degree clause fell off as no one voted in its favour.
This means that presidential qualifications as provided for in the current constitution stand.
And on Thursday evening, the NCC u-turned on its earlier decision to exclude from the new constitution water, food and shelter as social and economic rights.
Considering public submissions on the draft constitution, NCC spokesperson Mwangala Zaloumis announced that 46 petitioners had submitted that the conference restores the Mung’omba clauses as they were proposed on the respective rights.
Article 74 of the Mung’omba draft constitution states that: “(1) Every person has the right to be free from hunger and to have access to food in adequate quantities, of adequate quality and cultural acceptability; (2) Every person has the right to water in adequate quantities and of satisfactory quality; (3) Every person has the right to a reasonable standard of sanitation.”
But during the plenary sitting in April this year, some NCC delegates laughed at these clauses, with justice deputy minister Todd Chilembo describing them as utopian.
However, this time the delegates embraced the clauses, although in a modified manner.
The Conference rephrased the clauses to read: “Every person has a right to water;” and that “Every person has a right to proper sanitation.”
When NCC chairperson Chifumu Banda asked a question as to who wanted the clauses included in the supreme law or in the Directive Principles of State Policy, delegates unanimously resolved to include the rights in the supreme law.
Earlier when debating clauses on pensions and gratuities, Copperbelt Province minister Mwansa Mbulakulima urged delegates not to be rigid when considering people’s submissions to the constitution.
Mbulakulima’s contribution arose from a comment by one of the commissioners who said there was no need for the NCC to revisit decisions they had made in the last plenary sitting.
But Mbulakulima argued that the decisions the conference made earlier on the Mung’omba draft constitution were not final.
“First of all I would like to differ with the previous commissioner who submitted that we should not revisit our previous decisions. We debated these issues and made decisions and these were not final.
And later we sent these decisions to the general public and the public made submissions based on our decisions,” debated Mbulakulima. “Therefore, there is no need for us to take a rigid position in these issues. We have to be flexible because we are considering people’s submissions.”
Meanwhile, the NCC refused to accommodate all the more than 100 submissions for media freedom.
Media practitioners and civil society had submitted that the NCC restores all Mung’omba clauses on the media.
Article 57 of the Mung’omba draft constitution states, among others, that: (1) There shall be freedom of the press and other media; (2) Subject to this constitution, a law shall not make any provision that derogates from freedom or independence of the press and other media.”
But the NCC in April rejected clause 2 and other provisions, leaving only clause 1.
Only three people were allowed to debate the submissions.
Rejecting the submissions to the draft constitution, Independent Churches of Zambia president Reverend David Masupa argued that journalists could be photographing naked people if not controlled.
“We had already looked through into what they are proposing. And we said it’s arbitrary freedom that we were avoiding. As it is it’s arbitrary freedom where women would even be photographed naked,” said Rev Masupa.
The NCC skipped the 50 per cent plus one clause on grounds that it had been referred to the referendum.
Banda said it was improper to debate the clause when it had been referred to the general public to make a decision.