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We cannot afford a Parliament of illiterates – Harrington

WE cannot afford to have a Parliament of “illiterates” with its attendant risks and reality of unjustified expenditure of taxpayers’ money on members who make little or no positive contribution in our legislature, says William Harrington.

Harrington said the Grade 12 minimum level of education for aspiring members of parliament as announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia must be supported as it was consistent with the expressed will of the people as reflected in the report of the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission (MCRC).

“Having been privileged to serve as a commissioner on the MCRC, I can confirm that numerous petitioners highlighted the importance of members of the parliament to be able to read, dialogue in and understand the English language which is our official language that is used in Parliament,” he said. “And as the MCRC report will confirm, petitioners observed that in order to have sound leadership, there is need for all aspiring parliamentary candidates to be subjected to a minimum grade 12 level of education confirmation.”

The former transport and communications, and also environment minister said the G12 requirement was an imperative if the country had to avoid the enactment of obnoxious and draconian pieces of legislation by a majority of members of parliament whose only contribution to debates in the House was to shout “hear, hear!” at the top of their voices so as to be noticed by “Ba Kateka” in anticipation of possible appointment to higher offices.

Harrington said after protracted debate, the MCRC recalled and reiterated its earlier recommendation on G12 or its equivalent as qualification of a presidential candidate, and that the same should apply in respect of an aspiring member of parliament.

He said the MCRC further recommended that the words “or its equivalent” be clearly defined.

Harrington said Parliament was an important and critical arm of government wherein serious matters were debated and laws enacted.

“Therefore, the importance of a reasonable Grade 12 or equivalent level of education is not only the necessity but indeed an imperative,” said Harrington. “I fervently believe that we cannot afford to have a Parliament of “illiterates” with its attendant risks and reality of unjustified expenditure of taxpayers money on members who make little or no positive contribution in our legislature.”

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