Members of Parliament during the opening of Parliament by President Sata on September 19,2014 -Picture by THOMAS NSAMA
Members of Parliament during the opening of Parliament by President Sata on September 19,2014 -Picture by THOMAS NSAMA

In February this year Speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe attacked uneducated MPs for failing to make informed debates in the House.

“They come by popular vote,” he said. “The only requirement is that you should be over 18 and a registered voter. So, you get people who are so popular for some reason and come to Parliament but do not have the basic academic tools to understand some of the Bills.”

I use the Zimbabwean scenario as a foreword in the wake of Edgar Lungu’s recent appointment of Richwell Siamunene as Minister of Defence. When I learned he was a Grade 12 with a Business Management Certificate in Marketing and Food Processing, I, like many others, wondered if he has the intellectual acumen and perspicacity to head such a vital and sensitive ministry.

Let me first define the role of the Minister of Defence. He is the Chief Executive Officer of all the wings of the military. In many countries he is a de facto deputy commander-in-chief with authority, direction and control. In Zambia the Minister of Defence is a civilian and therefore not an integral part of the operational military chain of command. He is responsible for administrative, general budget matters, procurement of equipment and other military paraphernalia. He also represents the country at military fora.

It is a strong convention of many Zambians that the leader of the most powerful ministry must be an agile adaptive and educated thinker who can tackle acquisition and budgeting challenges and address the needs of our brave men and women in the military. Siamunene is not fully qualified for the undertaking, and so was Godfrey Mwamba when he served in the same capacity in the Sata regime.

Allow me to pose a couple of questions:

Could Lungu have picked a much more qualified MP? Is it really necessary to appoint qualified people to head ministries? If not, why are some ministries exceptional? Does all this matter, anyway?

Before I proceed, let me make it abundantly clear that I have written this article in my humble effort to enlighten my fellow countrymen and women, so we can rise like lions after slumber. It is not my intention to humiliate, dishonor, disrespect, or ridicule anyone. When I mention the name of a politician, I do so without malice. All Members of Parliament are voluntary public figures. The fact that they thrust themselves to the forefront of Zambian politics makes them susceptible to scrutiny. The public must know everything about them, including their academic qualifications.
That being said let me commend Lungu for crossing the aisle and picking a member of the opposition UPND to head the military, a rare feat in African politics. What becomes a matter of debate though is his choice. Just now the country is inundated with a plethora of reasons. They range from scarcity or phobia of the educated to the creation of sycophantic minions. Whatever the reason, the appointment is an indication that the Zambian education system is in a morass. It continues to churn out more Grade 12s than graduates.

Proof of this claim is contained in the World Bank Report of 2014. According to the report, approximately 8% of the Zambian youth (ages 15-24) complete secondary education and only 3% attend college or university. The remaining 92% is broken as follows: 5% no formal education, 50% attend primary school (34% incomplete + 16% complete), and 35% fail to complete secondary education. Simply put, 3% have college knowledge, some with a diploma or degree; 5% are Grade 12s who fail to go to college; the rest (92%) either have not been to school, dropped out or failed Grade 7, dropped out or failed Grade 9, failed Grade 12 or left before graduation.

The above data shows that we live in a country in which the greater part is preponderantly uneducated or moderately educated. There simply are not enough educated people to go around.
This sparseness explains why gifted and talented individuals with no college education use their popularity, charm, and charisma to find their way to the pinnacle of Zambian politics. In our parliament they make the bulk.

According to the composition on the National Assembly of Zambia website, Grade 12 MPs, some with post-secondary certificates include Obvious Mwaliteta (Kafue), Geoffrey Mwamba (Kasama), Musenge Mwenya (Chimwemwe), Patrick Mucheleka (Lubansenshi), Greyford Monde (Itezhi-Tezhi), Clive Miyanda (Mapatizya), Carlos Antonio (Kaoma), Levy Chabala (Kankoyo), Moses Chishimba (Kamfinsa), Misheck Mutelo (Lukulu West), Annie Munshya (Lufwanyama), Stephen Chungu (Luanshya), Boyd Hamusonde (Nangoma), James Kapyanga (Kabwe Central), Olive Mulomba (Magoye), and Davis Mwango (Kanchibiya).

Others are: Humphrey Mwanza (Solwezi West), Davis Mwilu (Chipili), Levy Ngoma (Sinda), Poniso Njeulu (Sinjembela), Stephen Katuka (Mwinilunga), Dorothy Kasunga (Kabushi), Abel Sichula (Nakonde), Chomba Sikazwe (Mpulungu), Sianga Siyanya (Sesheke), Forrie Tembo (Nyimba), John Kufuna (Mufulira), Josphine Limata (Luampa), Rogers Lyambai (Mangango), Moona Lubezhi (Namwala), Mushili Allan Malama (Chitambo), Sichone Malozo (Isoka), Mutinta Mazoka (Pemba), Peter Phiri (Mkaika), and Richwell Siamunene (Sinazongwe).

It is difficult to compile a full list because some MPs confuse a “certificate of attendance” with a diploma or deliberately choose the latter to imply they have been to college. For those who do not know, in Zambia a “certificate of attendance” is granted to a participant in short courses, seminars, workshops, and tutorials. A “diploma,” on the other hand, is a certificate issued by an educational institution (college or university) usually after a two-year course.

Without a diploma the afore-mentioned honorable men and women and many others in this category are barely educated. In parliament, they have a problem to fully grasp the government’s lingua franca contained in some of the Bills. They do not understand the intricacies of politics, fathom basic development concepts, and process long-term effects of every piece of legislation. They therefore cannot debate the national budget and understand industrial complexities and how to solve them. It is also true that as leaders of parliamentary committees, they find it difficult to engage in critical thought, communicate effectively; organize, analyze, and evaluate information. Simply put, they are the defective ambience of parliament.

Sadly, since independence, Zambian presidents have picked from a crop of MPs of mostly inadequate education. Once in cabinet such men and women are charged with the responsibility of formulating the policy of Government. But because they lack the reasoning abilities to foster skills of value to Zambia, they have not taken us anywhere. While it is invidious to appoint only academically qualified MPs to all the ministries, it is imperative that the key ministries of Finance, Defence, Education, Foreign Affairs, Health, Justice, and Commerce are given the prerogative.

Let me end by putting the blame squarely on Lungu. He is not farsighted. As evidenced since he assumed power, he has not deemed education as incontestable in the advancement of Zambia. He has not created a think tank that can present an executable educational system that enriches the 92%, intellectualizes the 5%, and innovates the 3%; a think tank that creates an excellent networking that paves the way for a higher number of college and university graduates to parliament, and connects the rest of Zambians to global lighthouses.

Here is my advice to every Zambian: Don’t be a dead horse. Think of educating yourself, no matter your age. Let your aptitude tower over your attitude—knowledge over your ignorance, and innovation over your indolence.

By Field Ruwe

Please Note: My Wikipedia page was recently altered and offensive information added. The IP Address at the time of alteration has been identified as that of a Joshua Lupupa of Livingstone. This individual has also accessed some of my academic papers online and inserted insults. He has also resorted to leaving personal attacks and insults on all my articles, often using aliases like “Anti Ruwe” “Friends of Ruwe in Livingstone,” “James Kosa.” Lupupa is the same individual I mention in the assassination hoax of 2012 in which the late Sata’s Wikipedia was tampered. Please be on the lookout for such offensive language in my works and kindly inform me.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012
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37 COMMENTS

    • This world has exceptional people. Shaka formulated some military principles that are being used in military schools today & he had no degree. Bill Gates dropped out of college & went on to be a billionaire. Today every university wants to give him a PHD. These are exceptional people.
      An ordinary guy requires paneling (thru education) for them to attain a certain level of logical thinking. & people like Richwel (& most of our MPs)are the ordinary fellows. I agree with Field.

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  1. The writer seems to be confusing education with schooling. You do not need classroom paper to be educated. The paper is just a symbol and not everyone with these papers perform better than those without. Education starts from home and has nothing to do with speaking good English. I have met professors that struggle to speak English yet they are highly educated.
    Most important bit is knowledge and intellegence to make effective decisions. Grade 12 is good enough to open the mind of an intelligent person. There are a lot of successful grade 12 s in the world and equally millions of your so called educated that have failed to live decent lives. Some have even migrated to Europe or USA to try and me end meet. BEING SCHOOLED IS NOT BEING EDUCATED.

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    • Iwe John Chinena stop it. Grade 12s know almost nothing. Even such concepts as decision-making, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, management, development, holistic, sector linkages etc are all strange to a grade 12. Even democracy and its tenets cannot and will never fully be appreciated by a grade 12. If you ask a grade 12 to coordinate something, he or she will think you are talking about the Nervous System simply because the only time they have heard of coordination is in their grade 12 Biology class.

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  2. A leader should be wiser than academic qualifications but should be capable enough to understand basic matters of life.

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  3. A good example of a person who have collected hundreds of papers but still remains dull is field ruwe himself. If you ‘ve never met this guy in person you would think he is a genious but the day you ‘ll meet him awe sure na grade seven akwatapo amano.

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  4. My humble contribution Mr Ruwe is the engine of any ministry is the Permanent Secretary as the Minister is merely a political head.
    Thus that the defence minister does not need to be an expert in the area of defence and security.
    As for the calibre of our grade 12 graduates that i do not know but when i completed my form five in 1985 with some work experience i would have accepted an appointment similar to Hon Siamunene.

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    • And a bad example is the late Sata RIP. The only language he knew and understood was borrow, borrow, borrow, public order act, commission of inquiry bla bla bla while the economy was slipping beneath his feet.

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  5. Fair comment mudala! Mind you l say mudala because the respect l give to you! However, l also believe respect has to be earned and in a way you have earned my respect! I may not agree with you all the time but you hit the nail on the head on this one! We have had 3 presidents who had ‘certificates of attendance’ only one, in my view, did exceptionally better than even the 2 with law degrees or the other equipped with an economics degree! However, when it comes to lower ranked positions, we have not done well with all the parties who have led us! I have time again advocated for having an elightened leader like Chipimo/Nawakwi together then the rest of the team filters all the way to the bottom! When we said a president must have a degree (minimum), they told us, we were against one…

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  6. Political parties have a huge responsibility to ensure that only people with proper academic qualifications are adopted. They should also be people of high integrity, not people with questionable background. It saddens me to see some well known crooks vying for political office. A good example is that crook who is eying the Kasama seat on the ruling party ticket.

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  7. I have achieved more working with drop outs than degree holders; while i believe in education.. i do not think it reads leadership. The Minister of defense can be a good leader without any certification; just as a president can be a good visionary for our country.

    I think the elected minister should be given a chance; we need more leadership qualities in Zambia than mere diplomas and degrees. I agree with the writer; but i think leadership is a matter of degrees. I know many intelligent people who cant organize their own families to do a task.

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  8. Field Ruwe, you talk about the Grade 12 Parliamentarians only. What do the others have in terms of qualifications? Go through all of them. We want to see who is who in Parliament in terms of education.

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  9. FOOLISH ARTCLE.BECOZ U ARE IN THE AMERICA DOES NOT MAKE U SPECIAL MR RUWE.DR SIMUSA HOLDS A PHD IN MINING ENGINEERING,BUT HAS FAILED NCHANGA CONSTITUENCY,DOCTOR KATEMA IS A MEDICAL DOCTOR,BUT HAS FAILED CHINGOLA CENTRAL CONSTITUENCY.CORNELIUS MWEETWA IS A UNIVERSITY GRADUATE BUT HAS FAILED TO DEVELOP HIS CONSTITUENCY.WAS THERE RECENTLY TO SEE MUM.DR KAUNDA HAD HUMBLE EDUCATION,BUT HAS BUILT THIS NATION FROM THE SCRATCH.

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  10. i totally agree with the writer of this article,most of our MPs are dandaheads and they have low eduction calibre.I have also researched by way going on the website of Zambian parliament.I tell u what you see there as there qualification or experience is much to desired.The is more to be done y all Politcal parties in zambia,they is need to adopt at least learned candidate .So come 2016 pliz pliz screen them dont just adopt for the sake of adopting otherwise you are leting our country done

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  11. …if only we had ten or more credible universities in da 70s….this article couldn’t have been written…because nearly all the MPs could have had a degree or so….I know so many of my colleagues who did craft courses in the 70s/80s and when ZCCM sponsored them for further education….they all came back with degrees….next time someone may suggest that only lawyers are supposed to stand for parliamentary seat…our current constitution calls for grade 7 as a minimum education which means all the MPs are infact more than qualified…until the constitution says otherwise…education should not be a subject of discussion…

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  12. They say necessity is the mother of invention. In this peaceful region of Africa, there is no need for a formidable military force so you can take a kaponya and place him at the head of the defense ministry.

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  13. With all due respect to the level of your educational attainment, Mr. Ruwe, I still find it difficult to understand that you cannot think in similarities and differences, but identities. Good luck, and try hard in not being a perpetual PHD candidate!

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  14. Abena Field Ruwe benifye bwino. Just next door in Zimbabwe the President there has seven degrees. Look at what he has done. Whereas KK with a humble education left us with things we can be proud of until graduates came and destroyed everything.

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  15. Comment:
    My own observation Mr.Ruwe is you are a bit shallow in your reasoning of equating college/varsity gradutes to be collateral think tanks in public life.politics is not about post graduate certificates but public service pliz.some of these same pipo have contributed a lot e.g levy ngoma ~sinda MP. Am simply failing to understand your reasoning sir!

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  16. What should be of concern is political intellect and acumen. In the Zambian case education is a matter of opportunity. Some of the people listed as having basic education have been able to articulate issues quite well. Yes we do need the Think tanks to foster independent thinking that can evolve new developmental ideas that are detached from the civil service inertia. Such think tanks should be based on the capacity to translate concepts into practice rather than focusing on how many useless PhDs one obtained through chance occurrence. We need Bill Gates and Albert Einstein type.

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  17. Ruwe Patrick Mucheleka is not only a grade 12 but also a graduate from UNZA and has a masters he obtained from the Netherlands. Please check all the information well. I do not know where you got all the information to about the qualifications, but most information is not on the parliament website unfortunately.

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  18. Diplomat in Namibia niece to Sata has no grade 12. Chishimba Kambwili, Mr. Tin Can I give him a grade 8. Jean Kapata nurse turned minister of tourism has no education in that field. How can a nurse manage the tourism sector which is so vast and poses a lot of challenges to even people with PhD’s. And how can someone with no grade 12 be a diplomat? This is why these people can’t make informed decision and contributing to Zambia’s demise. They use recycled material or recycle each other from party to party due to babulu or friendship? We have been saying this for years yet Zambian’s will vote for the same people. PF has failed in many aspects and time to move forward. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake of voting for people who contributed to Zambia’s failures.

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  19. The other thing about education is perception. Richwel is going to be sitting with fellow ministers of defence from around the region & globally, how will they perceive him.
    Looking at his demeanor probably even his generals who are better educated than him will have little respect for him. Of course they will be doing the ceremonial salute.
    GBM used his other “achievements” as a moneyman to command respect.

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  20. GBM was defense minister recently, what qualification does he have? Money is not an educational qualification. So, pls leave Siamunene alone. Granted it is good to have some high level of education, it is not all that matters. It is said that “YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL IN EDUCATION BUT A FAILURE IN LIFE”. This is true for many people. There are many people with humble education but are very successful. When I was pursuing one of my post-graduate training in Europe I had a school mate from the US who had to suspend school midway to go and pursue a business opportunity that arose. Because he understood that opportunity may knock only once on your door. So, higher education is good, but not necessarily sufficient for good leadership. I like the discourse though.

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    • That is why they are easily duped by Pf. They fail to raise critical issues. They think going to parliament is only about wearing suits.

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  21. There is some distressing that I have seen under the sun, the sort of mistake made by those in power. Foolishness is put in many high positions. Eccl: 10, 5

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  22. I AM NOT A FAN OF FIELD RUWE. HE TURNED ME OFF LONG TIME AGO WHEN HE USED TO FEATURE ON ZNBC TV ON A COMEDY PROGRAM WITH JOKES WHICH WERE NEVER JOKES AS NO ONE COULD EVER LAUGH AT THEM MAYBE APART FROM HIMSELF AND HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN. BUT, THIS ARTICLE IS INDEED FRIGHTENING. NO WONDER ZAMBIA CAN’T JUST MOVE ON EVEN CHANCES ARE THERE TO. BECAUSE, HOW DOES ONE EXPECT THOSE SO CALLED LAW-MAKERS TO FORMULATE WHAT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND. I CAN IMAGINE FOR THEM IT IS TORTURE TO EVEN BE IN PARLIAMENT. THIS IS VERY SCARY TO SAY THE LEAST.

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  23. Wise decision informed,honestv leadership, differs from university degrees. One can have a university degree but he/she lacks leadership qualities. KK is not even grade 12 but he governed diligently.

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  24. KK governed diligently or because people feared him? Let’s not confuse fear and good leadership. Do we forget Ba Paramilitary and their “In the Air” slogan? Please people let’s not forget! What about the mines, what became of copper? Had it been someone with skills and education, Zambia would have been competing on the global market to date. We were among the top 3 in the world producing copper. But they duped us and made us sign bogus contracts and with no understanding we gave them everything. In my own opinion education truly matters especially in a globalized numbers world. Let’s not fool ourselves because many uneducated politicians maybe on this very blog protecting their interests.

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  25. Interesting reading indeed. It has been said that Zambia is a nation at risk, and the educational attainment so given are ludicrous. Surely debates on the effect nature of leadership outcome should be extremely clear by now and hence does not form my bone of contention. My concern is on what I call “the cowardice of the educated”. Just the other day while interacting with a prof, he gave a statement, “politics are an enterprise of everyone. Yet the so called intellectuals are nowhere to be seen. You see friends, there are two ways of joining govt, 1. Through being employed by politicians and 2. Through elections. Of the two, the former is easier when you have paper and qualifications. The latter, however is excruciatingly challenging and to a greater extent dangerous. Real power is…

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