Zanu-PF wants presidential age limit 'to stymie opposition candidate'

12 December 2018 - 06:30 By James Thompson
In a move characteristic of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruling party wants to impose a minimum age limit of 52 for presidential candidates. If successful, this would prevent main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, pictured, from contesting the next election.
In a move characteristic of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruling party wants to impose a minimum age limit of 52 for presidential candidates. If successful, this would prevent main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, pictured, from contesting the next election.
Image: Zinyange AUNTONY / AFP

Zanu-PF’s women’s league has joined the war veterans in a chorus calling for an upward review of the presidential age limit at the party’s conference, which is currently under way.

According to the country’s constitution, to qualify as a presidential candidate one must be at least 40 on election day. The leader of the biggest opposition grouping, the MDC Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, turned 40 five months before this year’s July 30 election – but the proposed change would have disqualified him had it been in place before the poll.

Chamisa gave President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 76, a good run for his money in a narrow 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, the women’s league has seconded a proposed minimum age of 52.

"We support the resolution made by war vets - their proposal to say that an age limit be set for eligibility of presidential candidates," said the league's secretary for administration Monica Mutsvangwa.

The women arrived at the resolution at their national assembly ahead of the party's conference. Their argument is that "those who contest for the presidency are mature enough to fully grasp the gravity of what it means to run a country".

The war veterans said the party should consider the move because it has more than a two-thirds majority in parliament - enough to change laws.

To also avoid election results having to be contested in the manner as happened after Mnangagwa’s victory, the veterans urged Zanu-PF delegates to push the party to have stringent measures passed in parliament.

"We call upon parliament to amend sections of the law dealing with the swearing in of the president after elections to be soon after the announcement of results and allow those with queries to [raise them] after the swearing in of the winning president announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC]," said the war veterans in a statement.

Besides an early attempt to ring-fence the presidency from the opposition for a few months after elections, Mnangagwa’s supporters will also move to solidify his candidature in the next presidential elections five years from now.

The women’s, war veterans and youth leagues - the three main bodies in the party - all arrived at the conference in agreement that Mnangagwa was the party’s sole candidate for 2023. This effectively means Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and anyone with presidential ambitions should shelve them for at least 10 years. By that time, Mnangagwa will be 86.

There are some hushed voices arguing that under Mnangagwa the party is heading back to a Robert Mugabe style of operation and rule.

"At the top echelons of power one person is elected and that's the first secretary who is eventually the president. He then appoints or handpicks members of the politburo central decision-making body. That means it's his friends and loyalists only," said a party member.

The current 16-member politburo has some former cabinet ministers - such as secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa, and secretary for information and publicity Simon Khaya Moyo – who were retired from government in the post-July 30 election period and now yield more power than the cabinet in government.

"These people are frustrating a lot of government initiatives because they are 'above government and the party comes first'. Basically their word has more weight than that of cabinet ministers. I think that’s a disaster considering that they are not elected nor represent any sizable constituency in their politburo seats," the party member added.


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