Ructions are emerging in the ruling Zanu PF party over its plans to increase the minimum presidential age limit from the current 40 years to between 55 and 60 years.
Early this month, controversial Zanu PF lawmaker Joseph Chinotimba, aged 68, stirred a hornet’s nest when he said he would propose amending the Constitution to disqualify presidential candidates below the age of 55.
The move is meant to shut out MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa’s from participating in the next polls to be held five years from now.
A member of Zanu PF’s politburo, Lovemore Matuke, recently added weight to Chinotimba’s declaration when he told the State media that the ruling party would use its majority in the National Assembly to revise the age limit upwards and block Chamisa because he is “immature”.
But party insiders told the Daily News yesterday that while Zanu PF was rattled by the youthful MDC Alliance leader’s strong showing in the recently-held elections, its faithful were divided over the issue.
They said the young Turks in Zanu PF are digging in as they are now impatient to take over the reins after the old guard is gone.
In what clearly points to the divisions, Nick Mangwana, a Zanu PF media strategist, said the acts and commissions of Chamisa should not be used to disqualify a whole generation.
“When General (Josiah) Tongogara died, he was 41. An accomplished war strategist and statesman. He was the leading beacon at Lancaster negotiations. He unlocked impasses with his mature approach. We cannot change our rules because of a self-destructive immature 40-year-old. Let’s be progressive,” said Mangwana.
Yesterday, the Zanu PF youth league said the wing was against the idea of changing the age limit.
“Will be engaging the leadership on the alleged proposal to raise the presidential age. Why punish innocent generations? It’s alien to Zanu PF and it won’t see the light of the day. This we will resist. It can’t,” said the league’s secretary for the commissariat, Godfrey Tsenengamu.
The move has also invited scorn from ordinary Zimbabweans, analysts and other political players.
Crisis Coalition director for South Africa Piers Pigou said if Zanu PF rails ahead with its plans it risks alienating a huge demographic grouping including those who sympathise with it.
“This matter was previously touted by Zanu PF legislator, Joseph Chinotimba, who subsequently claimed it was suggested in jest. Any serious move in this direction would generate considerable negative sentiment I imagine as its intentions would be blatantly obvious and this may also not play well with the country’s under 40s who now constitute the majority of voters,” said Pigou.
While Zimbabwe draws much of leadership from the pre-independence period, across the globe new leaders are emerging.
Professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental Studies Stephen Chan said the past should give way to the new.
“This is Matuke simply flying a kite at this moment in time. But it is a kite itself well behind the times. Look at Macron in France, Justin Trudeau in Canada, Jacinda Adern in New Zealand – these are all young leaders with wonderful new ideas and energy,” said Chan.
“With modern education, old wisdom doesn’t hack it in the modern world. Look what the previous leader of Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe) did. He took the country backwards”.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme described the latest move by Zanu PF as “politics of geriatrics” saying it is blind to the “demographic realities in Zimbabwe where the bulky of the population is around 20 years old”
“It is also against trends in the world where the surging young population is not only calling for inclusion in governance processes but for a place in the driving seat,” he said.
Saungweme said trying to deny young people the driving seat in Zimbabwe’s politics was not only a cause of conflict, but a potential driver of instability and insecurity.