PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF party has rejected a proposal from its affiliate, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), to raise the age limit for presidential aspirants to 52 years.
War veterans, with support from the women’s league, wanted Zanu PF to use its two-thirds majority in Parliament to amend the national Constitution in what critics have argued is a move to block 40-year-old opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa from contesting the 2023 presidential poll.
Chamisa came close to upsetting Mnangagwa in a bruising election battle early this year, only to lose the closely fought presidential poll after polling 44,3% against the Zanu PF leader’s 50,8%. The MDC leader, however, disputed the election result and brought a petition before the Constitutional Court in a bid to overturn Mnangagwa’s victory which was, however, thrown out for lack of evidence.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo yesterday said the ruling party had not received any official communication from war veterans on the issue. Resolutions passed at the end of the ruling party’s 17th annual conference held in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, last week did not include the contentious proposal.
“As far as I am aware, we have not received any communication regarding the proposed amendment to the Constitution. If it was discussed at the conference, it may have been at the committees’ stage, but it was never brought to the final list for adoption,” Khaya Moyo said.
Insiders said the proposal had found resistance from the youth league, in particular.
“Except for some within the leadership, the entire youth league was opposed to the amendment. It makes very little sense and flies in the face of our new found call to open up the democratic space. It’s like replaying the old record from which the President (Mnangagwa) is trying to walk away,” said a source.
Zanu PF secretary for youth Pupurai Togarepi could not be reached for comment after he was involved in an accident on his way to the conference, while his deputy, Lewis Matutu’s mobile phone went unanswered.
War veterans leader Victor Matemadanda, who has been the most vocal proponent of the resolution, was unwilling to discuss the issue yesterday.
“I am travelling. Can I talk to you later in the day,” he said.
When NewsDay told Matemadanda that the party’s spokesperson had essentially professed ignorance of the proposal, the war veterans secretary-general, who doubles as Deputy Minister for Defence, suggested there could have been an error.
“If he said that, then I would have to discuss with him first before I come back to you,” he said.
Khaya Moyo added that thematic committees bring “numerous resolutions” and most are rejected.
“We have many thematic committees at conference that bring as many as 20 resolutions each. The party cannot adopt everything that is brought before it. It’s impossible,” he said.
Douglas Mahiya, the ZNLWVA spokesperson, however, was more pragmatic and accepted the party’s decision to reject the proposal.
“There was a list of resolutions passed and adopted by conference at the end. It (proposal for age limit) was not there, because the party has a prerogative to fine tune issues as they are brought before it. Zanu PF produces political material to suit a particular environment, and what was communicated to everyone, is what the party adopted,” Mahiya said.
Asked what feedback the war veterans leadership would give to its membership regarding the proposed amendment, Mahiya said: “We will tell them that we put the proposal before the party, it was processed along with other issues and what has been communicated is the outcome of such discussions.”
He said it was up to the membership of the former fighters to seek other ways of presenting their argument.
“It is up to them. But we will not, as an association, seek to present a counter narrative to that of the party,” Mahiya said.
Khaya Moyo said the Zanu PF politburo and central committee were also yet to discuss the issue.
“The proposal has also not been brought before the party’s organs such as the politburo and central committee. But we are a democratic party and people can continue to discuss these issues until such time they have exhausted all channels,” he said.
After the war veterans, the women’s league as well as a number of provincial structures of Zanu PF jumped onto the bandwagon and supported the proposal. However, the party’s Mashonaland Central structure was the first to publicly reject it, following a provincial conference last week.