MDC Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Felix Magalela Sibanda yesterday lambasted the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) secretary-general Victor Matemadanda over his comments that the association would push for a constitutional amendment to disqualify any person below the age of 52 from running for the presidency.
Sibanda said such remarks could only be made by individuals who survived on patronage, but warned that the people of Zimbabwe would resist such machinations, which are seen as aimed at 40-year-old opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
"Maybe, this proposal by the so-called war veterans will unite all discriminated Zimbabweans to face the bull head," he said.
"Maybe, the intention by those who survive on patronage will make the rest of the citizenry wake up to the challenges we are facing as a country."
The proposed presidential age limit has been roundly condemned as it would bar young people from seeking the top political office in the land.
Church and Civic Society Joint Forum National chairperson Anglistone Sibanda described the war veterans' proposal as unrealistic.
"We are actually launching a counter petition through the Constitutional Court to review the age limit down to 35 years, because we feel the Constitution gives the right to vote to everyone and on the other hand takes away the right to be voted for from people below 40 ,in its current state," Sibanda said.
"We have people over 35 years who do not qualify to be youths and yet do not qualify to be senators or contest the presidency, and that is an anomaly."
Sibanda said the ex-combatants needed a strong rebuke from the younger people for being selfish and driven by greed.
"We cannot have the minority age group deciding for the majority. Youth are 64% of the population and war vets must just go and retire. People like Matemadanda failed to utilise the $50 000 gratuity payout they got in 1997, and they want to hold the country at ransom," he said.
"We are mobilising the young people to resist such retrogressive moves in our country. Nelson Chamisa's sins cannot be imposed upon everyone. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is 37 years, so they want people to die before being eligible to contest the presidency? ED (President Emmerson Mnangagwa) must rein in on these war vets or else Zanu-PF will antagonise 64% of the electorate and be booted out of power, come 2023. Their move exposes some intellectual deficiency."
MDC-T spokesperson Linda Masarira said it was totally unacceptable and a violation of section 56 of the Constitution, which speaks to equality of all Zimbabweans.
"Youth constitute 64% of the population and have every right to participate in governance issues for their posterity. War vets went to the liberation struggle to fight for majority rule, land and freedom from the colonisers for all Zimbabweans and not themselves. As such, we implore them to stop being unreasonable, greedy and selfish.
No one is more Zimbabwean than the other," Masarira said.
Zapu spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa said Zimbabwe deserved better and warned the war veterans leader that the country was not their personal property.
"We have raised the segregating clause that requires one to be 40 years old to qualify for elections as president instead of listening to young people. Matemadanda even suggests to raise the age limit. That's nonsensical, to say the least. War veterans did not fight the liberation war alone for them to claim sole rights to leadership," he said.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions western region chairperson Ambrose Sibindi said the majority Zimbabweans were aged between 18 and 45, so there was no justification to push the age limit to 52.
"They cannot deny the majority their right to lead the country at the expense of the minority group in terms of age. After all, the economy of the country is in a mess because of mismanagement and misrule by those elderly leaders," Sibindi said.
Former MDC Bulilima East legislator Norman Mpofu described the sentiments as lunatic.
"Actually, with all due respect, it is lunacy. How can someone pull a figure from the air and want to impose it on the nation? Obviously, they are scared of Chamisa.
They can't face him in the next election, considering he won the last election while he was limping," Mpofu said.