HARARE – The Zanu PF youth league has come out guns blazing against war veterans who have proposed a controversial constitutional amendment of the presidential age limit — aimed at blocking opposition leader Nelson Chamisa from participating in both the 2023 and 2028 elections.
The country’s current Constitution allows anyone from the age of 40 years upwards to contest the presidential plebiscite, but war vets want to revise the law and set the entry age limit at 52 years.
Chamisa, who narrowly lost to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the hotly-disputed July 30 polls, turns 41 in February next year — meaning that he would not be eligible to contest the 2023 and 2028 polls if the proposal by the war veterans is adopted.
Dismissing the idea, the Zanu PF youth league said yesterday it was “retrogressive” and an assault on a positive democratic culture which Mnangagwa’s government was trying to engender in the country.
“We believe that the correct position comes from the party (Zanu PF) … and the truth of the matter is that there is nothing like that from the party. Party issues are communicated by SK (Simon Khaya) Moyo.
“We respect the war veterans association … but it doesn’t mean that we must agree with all they believe in. Youths constitute the largest percentage of the population and this is also the largest age group of people who vote and you cannot tell them not to participate in the country’s politics,” Lewis Matutu, the deputy secretary of the Zanu PF youth league said.
This comes after war veterans secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, stirred the hornet’s nest on Tuesday when he repeated what the Daily News had correctly reported in August, that former freedom fighters wanted a constitutional amendment revising the age limit of aspiring presidential candidates from 40 to 52 years.
He said the age limit needed to be revised to ensure that people who contested presidential elections were “mature enough to run the country”.
Outspoken Zanu PF legislator for Buhera South, Joseph Chinotimba, had made a similar proposal last August — although then, he wanted the Constitution to disqualify presidential candidates below the age of 55.
Demonstrating that some ruling party heavyweights were serious about the matter, Chinotimba was backed a few weeks later by Zanu PF politburo member, Lovemore Matuke, who said the former liberation movement would use its parliamentary majority to revise the age limit upwards and block Chamisa in the next two elections because he was allegedly “immature”.
Meanwhile, an angry Chamisa has described the proposal as confirmation that he won the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential election.
“I have listened to Matemadanda’s utterances. If ever one doubted our July 30 election victory, just listen to the chefs’ outbursts. They rule but can’t lead.
“The old want to fix the young for demanding their time and space. Instead of raising the democracy bar, ED wants to raise the age bar. No genuine new dispensation amends the Constitution to take away young people’s rights,” he said.
Constitutional law expert, Alex Magaisa, also warned that the controversial proposals had the potential of harming Mnangagwa’s chances of endearing himself to the world, if it came to pass.
“How does anyone in his right mind even begin to contemplate this without seeing the damage it causes to their own principal? So now you want to bar an opponent through a constitutional amendment?
“Isn’t it for the people to reject a candidate if they don’t like him or her? It does nothing to help the cause of a man who is desperate to be seen as open and tolerant. It’s a silly, immature and hare-brained idea,” he said.
Chamisa has been brawling with Mnangagwa ever since he narrowly lost the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential election, whose result he vigorously challenged at the Constitutional Court (Con-Court).
He went on to accuse the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of manipulating the poll results in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
But Mnangagwa’s victory was upheld by the Con-Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.