Only career diplomats will serve in foreign service

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The national constitution convention has amended the executive functions of the president to allow the head of state appoint career diplomats or persons who have relevant professional qualification to serve in foreign missions.

The convention has further provided in the same article that all the appointments of ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls be ratified by parliament to ensure that only qualified persons are appointed.

This is contained in clause 2 (b) of Article 90 of the first draft constitution.

In debating the clause, Keembe Member of Parliament (MP) Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha noted that the amendment does not take away powers from the president to appoint diplomats but merely seeks to ensure that only qualified persons are appointed to represent Zambia in foreign countries.

Lt. Gen. Shikapwasha, who once served as Foreign Affairs Minister during the MMD regime, explained that he faced problems with some diplomats who could not perform because they were not qualified to serve in foreign missions as they had no professionl qualification in any field.

But Kasempa MMD MP, Kabinga Pande, who also once served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, opposed the clause contending that the president should be allowed to appoint anyone he thinks can represent the country better instead of career diplomats.

His argument was supported by Deputy Minister of Labour Ronald Chitotela who noted that the amendments were wrongly placed as the president has the powers to appoint civil servants hence the amendment should apply to the civil service if the clause is adopted.

The house unanimously adopted the clause by acclamation vote, meaning that all appointment of diplomats will only be for professional persons who will be ratified by parliament.

Meanwhile, the convention has yet again failed to reach a consensus on some clauses of article 97 that provide for the qualification and disqualification for nomination for election as president and referred the matter to a secret ballot tomorrow.

Divisions arose when the thematic group proposed that they include the age of presidential aspirants which attracted mixed reactions.

After debating, the house conducted an acclamation vote which resulted in a stalemate but the chairperson of the convention declared the delegates that opposed amendments as winners.

This was petitioned by more than 80 delegates who stood to show their disagreement forcing the chairperson to refer the motion to a secret ballot tomorrow.

The amendments suggested that the presidential candidate should not to be over the age of 80 years for them to be eligible to contest the presidential election.

And the convention has since rejected proposals to amend a clause of article 97 that would provide that a presidential aspirant should hold a university degree or its equivalent as minimum academic qualification.

This was after a heated debate as delegates supporting the amendments contended that all presidential aspirants should hold a university degree so that they can be analytical and articulate on global issues.

Those opposing the proposal argued that the clause was discriminatory to many Zambians who have not had a privilege of passing through the university but have the skill and ability to run the country better.

But some delegates noted that leadership requires wisdom and not knowledge adding that the poverty levels in the country have made it impossible for many intelligent Zambians to acquire a university degree qualification.

And Kalomo UPND MP Request Muntanga noted that people without degrees have proved to be good leaders world over unlike professors and others with doctorates.

Mr. Muntanga argued that some degree holders have acquired their qualification through questionable means making them worse than those without degrees hence the need to leave the qualification open for all Zambian with Grade 12 qualification.