Presidential running mates during the Tuesday live television debate held at Grand Palace Hotel in Mzuzu were all in favour that the maximum age for the country’s leader should be pegged at 75- years.
The running-mates all agreed that above 75, the condition of an individual becomes critical–especially health wise should be the ceiling.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice president, Sidik Mia, fervently stressed that going beyond 75 was a bit “dangerous” and “critical.”
He said: “Retirement age must be revisited. And I would suggest it be at 75.”
Malawi retirement age in civil service is at 60 years.
But United Democratic Front (UDF) running mate Frank Mwenifumbo said “politics is totally a different domain.”
He said: “Running for the presidency is a human right. And if you put age limit, it is an infringement of that right. But where ability to perform is in question, then an on-going discourse should be held and left to Malawians to decide. But if you asked me, I think 75 will do.”
UTM party’s Michael Usi said his party believes everybody has the right and responsibility to comment on the matter.
“But I think there must be an age limit, and 75 is not bad,” said Usi.
Usi also agreed with the 60 years retirement age for the civil service, saying it was good enough since it enabled the youth to be given space.
There has been a call for demographic shift in Malawi and youth activist Charles Kajoloweka, through his organisation Youth and Society launched the Youth Decide 2019 campaign to mobilise and deepen youth’s voice and action in setting and advancing youth development agenda ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections,
Among the presidential candidates, President Peter Mutharika, at 79 is the oldest and would be 84 years old at the time of leaving office in 2024 if re-elected in May.
Atupele Muluzi of UDF is the youngest presidential candidate at 40.
UTM’s Usi said during the debate that it is normal that thinking capacity levels deteriorate as one gets older, and, therefore, favours Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 46, to lead Malawi beyond 2019.
“When political power lies in the hands of aged leaders, its either they are being controlled by the wife or friends,” said Usi.
But Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe is on record saying running the President’s office and government affairs is serious business that requires old people who have experience and not ‘babies’ who are novices in State matters.
“Kamuzu Banda used to say that government is not for babies, and now you say you want to replace Mutharika with a baby? That is not right! Government is not for babies, government is for people with experience, and Peter is a man of experience, education, and above all, a person who behaves better and well to everyone,” Gondwe said.
Analysts say Malawi should capitalise on its demographic dividend in leadership as the energy and enthusiasm that young people bring, they are best equipped to identify and deliver fresh solutions to the problems.
However, Edge Kanyongolo, Chancellor College Constitutional Law expert is on record to have said there are no convincing reasons to warrant the age limit.
A University of Malawi professor and a blogger Jimmy Kainja agree with Kanyongolo. He argues that age isn’t a problem but Malawi needs to move away from personality politics.
“Malawi is where it is today not because of aged or old leaders but because it has had a political system that allows for cronyism, nepotism and tribalism, which inevitably leads to corruption,” argues Kainja in one of his blogs.
“Malawi needs a system where people follow politicians and political parties because they agree to certain policy ideas and ideologies. As it is, Malawi politics is all about personalities, which is a recipe for all sorts of ills that have trapped this country in grinding poverty,” he added.
According to the Report of the Law Commission on the Review of the Constitution (2007), the Law Commission received submissions of the eligibility criteria on age for the President which included a proposal to lower the minimum age and a proposal to introduce a maximum age limit of 70 to ensure holders of the high office are able to keep up with the demands of the office.
Another proposal was to raise the minimum age limit to 40 to ensure wisdom and maturity for the office.
While the Law Commission considered “the age of 35 adequate and appropriate to give young persons a chance to govern and at the same time allow for a substantial level of maturity to meet the challenges presented by the high office”, it decided not to prescribe a specific maximum age limit for the President purely based on the fact that this was a “political issue” best left to the political process.
Elsewhere, Barack Obama first became President of the United States at the age of 47. David Cameron and Tony Blair both became UK Prime Ministers for the first time when they were 43.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :