There is significant outrage and confusion on the amendments that Parliament enacted this week, which touch on the implementation of the Constitution.
So first it is useful to clarify what was enacted, and to do so, it is important to also identify what was not enacted.
Two proposals that would have affected aspects of the Constitution failed to meet the approval of the National Assembly and so were not enacted.
The first was a proposal to amend the Elections Act to provide that a person running for president in the next elections may simultaneously also run for any other seat, in the same elections.
This would have allowed presidential candidates to also seek election for membership of the Senate or the National Assembly or even county assemblies. However, as said, this amendment was defeated.
The second defeated amendment was a proposal to enact legislation that would have secured the recommendations made by the Treasury in the Budget to cushion MPs from the effect of taxation as a result of the new Constitution which requires that all persons pay taxes.
The Speaker had directed that these proposals were outside the province of Parliament and had directed that they should be handled by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.
Parliament passed an amendment to the Elections Act requiring those seeking to be elected to Parliament or as governors of counties to possess university degrees.
Another contentious enactment was an amendment of the Political Parties Act to provide that a political party will be competent to nominate a candidate for the next elections if that candidate had been a member of the party for the preceding two months.
In doing so, the MPs cut down this period from five months.
The intention behind the original provision was to give political parties teeth to hold onto their members, even when these were unhappy with the outcome of the nomination process.
This means political re-alignments will now be possible until just before the next elections take place.
Parliament also amended the Elections Act to provide that in the lists of candidates presented for nomination to the 12 special seats in the National Assembly, political parties would be free to include names of their presidential candidates
The opportunistic intentions behind this amendment are self-evident. First, it is absurd for a person who wants to be taken seriously as presidential candidate to hedge by also presenting himself for nomination to the Legislature.
Also, this amendment is of doubtful constitutional legitimacy given the fact that the 12 seats are reserved for special interest groups, such as persons with disabilities, the youth or the marginalised.
There are other amendments made as part of the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which have not caught as much public attention but which are of some importance.
One of them is an amendment to the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act, which extends the life of the vetting board by one year, freeing it to resume its work which stalled when its term expired.
The amendment also clarifies that judges who are dissatisfied with the decision of the vetting board removing them from office may appeal to the same board which has a duty to hear them immediately.
Previously, they would have had to wait until the board completes the fresh cases.
A significant change to arrangements on the vetting of judges and magistrates is an amendment that removes magistrates from the jurisdiction of the vetting board and provides that they be vetted by the Judicial Service Commission.
Parliament also passed amendments to the Sexual Offences Act but deleted a controversial proposal to the effect that where the trial of an accused person for a sexual offence ended in an acquittal, the complainant was liable to imprisonment for the term for which the original defendant would have been jailed if he had been convicted.
It is small credit to the Legislature that it did away with this bizarre proposal.
Of the amendments passed by the Legislature, the one that has caught public attention is the one linking running for certain offices with university degrees.
MPs may have misunderstood the effect of this amendment at the time when they passed it because as a result more than 70 of them will not qualify to run in the next elections.
It appears that they may have thought that the amendment would only apply to people outside Parliament who want to seek elective office in the next elections.
If this is so, it would have been too self-serving to be acceptable.
As it is, this amendment is still of concern because, as has been stated in Parliament itself, only a small number of citizens, about 200,000, hold university degrees.
The effect of this amendment is that it locks membership of the Legislature to the small category of citizens who have earned university degrees.
In enacting this provision, the justification appears to be that only possession of a certain degree of education, in this case a university degree, qualifies a person for the roles of a legislator, and that one needs university level education in order to superintend over public finances and participate in Parliament’s approving functions.
I entertain my doubts whether a university level education is necessary for these roles.
I hold the view that role of legislators is one of overall leadership, and that for these specialised roles for which they perform, they need to rely on advisers.
In practice, even the more educated members heavily rely on advisers when performing parliamentary functions.
The public has reacted strongly to these amendments which have been characterised as an attempt to negate the provisions of the new Constitution.
On their part, because MPs shot themselves in the foot when making these amendments, they have also petitioned the President not to assent to them.
In the coming days, there will be pressure on the president, from the sizeable group of MPs whose political careers will end early if these amendments go through, and from civic groups concerned about other aspects of the Constitution.
Even if the president assents to the Bill, which he can, he may be acting in futility since some of the provisions may be set aside by the courts upon review.