UPND national spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says the Constitutional Court ruling on what constitutes a grade 12 certificate will affect the opposition party much more than it did in 2016.

Addressing the press in Livingstone, Wednesday, Mweetwa said that the major effect would be felt at councillor level in rural areas, as prospective candidates with the requisite academic qualifications were scarce.

He, however, said suitable candidates would be found.

“…We also want to comment on the issue of the Constitutional Court ruling about the grade 12 certificate, what amounts to grade 12 certificate, five credits and above. That since this ruling is coming from the courts, we as UPND, will oblige and respect the ruling of the court. But we are quick to state that this ruling with its ramifications or implications will affect us as a party in coming up with candidates, especially at councillor-level. It will affect us, especially in rural areas because even with just grade 12 certificate, before it was qualified as the Constitutional Court has done now, we had challenges, and I believe even the PF had challenges because we talk at Parliament there, we agreed that this was challenging, now it’s even worse,” Mweetwa complained.

He noted that the grade 12 requirement was one of the main cause of rampant defections because leaders were chosen based on educational qualifications and rather than leadership capabilities.

“We saw the challenges that the grade 12 certificate brought that we ushered in councillors, some who went in because of qualification, not leadership for the people, hence defection after defection from 2016 to 2021 making the whole period an election period, that was because of the grade 12 certificate. Parties rushing, just looking for someone with a qualification and not a leadership qualification. This will disadvantage the UPND that I speak for, I believe even other political parties. But we shall find candidates in all the constituencies and wards…in a way, it is a good thing maybe we can reduce mediocrity in political leadership. Some of the leadership calibre we are seeing maybe some of them will be eliminated by this qualification and if that will be done, then it’s a good thing,” Mweetwa said.

And Mweetwa, who is also Choma Central UPND member of parliament, called on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to consider reducing the nomination fees for MPs and the Republican Presidency positions, bemoaning that they were prohibitive and a ploy to disadvantage the opposition.

“We have seen a lot of commentaries about the fees, about the ECZ fees members of parliament have to pay, K75,000 for one to stand as member of parliament; K85,000 for you to stand as President. These are the revised fees because they were at K90,000 for President and K80,000 for members of parliament. For us, as UPND, we feel that these fees are too exorbitant and prohibitive to the democratic engagement and participation of citizens. The Electoral Commission is mandated to conduct elections in Zambia, it is an institution, which is funded yearly through the national budget. Electoral Commission is not a fundraising organisation, if the PF has run down the country and there is no money to run elections, ECZ should not accept to be used as a fundraising agent of a failing government to run elections,” he said.

“The Electoral Commission of Zambia cannot begin to trade in a service of electioneering, that’s not their mandate, they can’t afford to turn themselves into COMESA market where people go and sell things for a profit, they are not a profit-making venture, they are a very special organisation, which runs elections and elections are at the centre of the maintenance of peace of a country.”

Meanwhile, Mweetwa said that PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri’s call for the arrest of Ministers was just a cheap political gimmick meant to lay favourable ground for police action against the opposition.

“Honourable Mumbi Phiri yesterday made statements, which have highly been misunderstood by many. When she said, ‘police should arrest Bowman Lusambo and the Minister of (Higher) Education (Dr Brian Mushimba) for holding meetings on the Copperbelt, large meetings amidst the COVID-19 pandemic…’ This is a cheap political gimmick meant to hoodwink unsuspecting citizens that, ‘PF now means well.’ Where was Honourable Mumbi Phiri when PF, from the inception of COVID have been holding meetings throughout? Where was she for her to speak now when in fact, COVID-19 we are told is subsiding? So, this is a political gimmick, which is meant to lay favourable ground for police action against the opposition when the opposition begin to mobilise because elections are nearby. So that, when police take action, unsuspecting citizens will say, ‘after all, even the PF said ministers should be arrested.’ We are not going to accept this kind of trickery,” said Mweetwa.

“She should have expressed concern, she was even asking, ‘imwe ba police, why are you not arresting us political leaders?’ Why isn’t she asking police to arrest those who were involved in the illegal trade of Mukula? Why isn’t asking police to arrest those who are supplying defective expired drugs…? Zambians should not take what Honourable Mumbi Phiri, my elder sister, said lightly; it is a ploy to provide grounds for police action against the opposition.”