By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
LOCAL MPs and the quality of their debate and contributions in the August House cannot be improved by stipulating that eligible candidates should possess a minimum of Ordinary Level qualifications.
This was said by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda in Chinhoyi while he was responding to a suggestion that aspiring lawmakers should, at least, have attained a certain level of education such as an ‘O’ Level certificate.
During an interactive meeting between civic society, media and Parliament held recently, Clifford Hlupeko, the Chinhoyi Residents’ Association chairperson, made an appeal to Mudenda to push for MPs to have a benchmarked level of schooling since most lacked a basic understanding of the legislative agenda, hence did not contribute meaningfully in Parliament.
Said Mudenda: “The Constitution says for one to qualify to be an MP they have to be a registered voter, be a citizen of this country and aged above 18 years. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say one has to have this or that level of education.”
“It is up to you to change the Constitution. Push for that to be amended if you want it changed.”
He gave an example of neighbouring Zambia, which in 2016 passed a Constitutional amendment stipulating that MPs should have a minimum ‘O’ Level education, but the move brought disastrous consequences.
“It is a good thing, but there has been an abuse of the system. My colleague, Speaker of Parliament of Zambia was not quite happy. It doesn’t guarantee the quality of leaders. Following the Constitutional amendment in 2016 in Zambia, there was an abuse of the system, but I will not go into detail on what happened,” said Mudenda without elaborating what headaches the Zambian scenario had posed.
However, NewZimbabwe.com gathered some aspiring MPs in Zambia forged educational qualifications in order to be eligible to contest for parliamentary seats.
Mudenda argued that during the liberation struggle, some frontline leaders were Standard Six and Form Two holders but had high astuteness, solid character, and reasoned well.
“Sometimes you need quality and character solidity (as opposed to educational qualifications),” further argued Mudenda.
In the case of the Parliament of Zimbabwe, one of the best-performing MPs is self-confessed uneducated Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba, who articulates himself clearly in vernacular Shona, but remains a firm favourite among his constituents.
The late Kwekwe Central legislator, Masango ‘Blackman’ Matambanadzo, and Sarah Mahoka, former Hurungwe East Zanu PF MP, were both self-confessed Grade Two school dropouts but made meaningful contributions in the House of Assembly.