Zimbabwe youths want presidential age limit cut to 35

Published: 02 May 2019
A CIVIC society grouping of youths has petitioned Parliament to reduce the age limit for presidential candidates to 35 in order to accommodate the youths.

In its petition to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, the National Association of Youth Organisations (Nayo) said it is perturbed by the lack of adequate measures for the inclusion of youth and young persons vis-a-vis the right to be voted for.

"Every Zimbabwean citizen above the age 18 has the right to vote as enshrined in section 67 (3) of the Constitution and section 67(3)b equivocally states that 'any Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over the age 18 years has the right to stand for public office and if elected, to hold such office," reads part of the petition.

"We therefore beseech the Parliament of Zimbabwe to exercise its constitutional role and address the following issues of public concern."

Nayo also called for the review of the senatorial and parliamentarian age limits downwards.

"Further to this we pray that the age caps be reviewed downwards to 35 years for the presidential and senatorial seats; and 18 years for parliamentarian and council candidates," Nayo said in the petition.

This coincides with a gingerly push from Zanu-PF and its allies to have the presidential age limit increased from 40 to 52.

If Zanu-PF succeeds, this would prevent main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, from contesting the next election in 2023.

The proposal was first mooted by a Zanu-PF legislator Joseph Chinotimba.

It then gained momentum with the Zanu-PF women's league and the party's main wing joining war veterans in a chorus calling for an upward review of the presidential age limit.

According to the country's Constitution, to qualify as a presidential candidate one must be at least 40 on election day.

Chamisa, leader of the country's biggest opposition grouping, the MDC, turned 40 last year.

Chamisa gave President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 76, a good run for his money in a razor-thin victory disputed at the Constitutional Court after allegations of vote-rigging and irregularities.

To keep the youthful Chamisa at bay, and possibly face off with a weaker candidate in 2023, Zanu-PF now wants the minimum age of 52 for presidential candidates.

Turning to the Nayo petition, the youth organisation said "it is imperative to note that section 91 (clause 1b) of the Constitution limits presidential candidates to 40 years of age while section 121(clause 1b) limits Senate candidates to at least 40 years and Parliamentary candidates are limited to 21 years of age as enshrined in section 125 (clause 1b) of the Constitution, which we categorically intend to challenge as it is clear on equality and non-discrimination of persons".

Led by Nayo's cluster coordinator MacDonald Munyoro the youth said Section 20 (b) of the Constitution commits government to ensure that youth have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life

"We will not be discriminated from elections and governance processes because we are youth. How do we participate in political spaces as enshrined in section 20 of the Constitution when they are age barriers restricting access to public office by youths," they said.

"Herefore your humble petitioner(s) pray that the Parliament upholds section 67(3)b and section 20(b) should be upheld and inconsistent age limitations imposed on presidential candidates, parliament and the senate be removed to ensure equality and justice to youth.

"Youth constitute 67 percent of the population and as such are a demographic imperative and must have equal access to governance organs."

The petitioners beseeched the Parliament of Zimbabwe to, without any further delay, enact the necessary legislative measures to accommodate young persons aspiring for the presidency, and for positions as members of the Senate, to do without encumbrances.
- dailynews
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