Debate has ensued over the move by Nsanje South West MP Joseph Chidanti-Malunga who has filed a motion to trim President age limit to 65.
The motion seeks to have Section 80 (7) amended to provide for age for one to serve as President.
If approved a new clause (h) will be added to the Section to read: “No person shall be eligible for nomination as a candidate for election as President or First Vice-President or for appointment as First Vice-President if that person…,(h) “has attained the age limit of 65 or more”.
The Constitution prescribes 35 as the minimum age for a presidential candidate but is silent on the maximum age for Presidents.
A renowned governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali has welcomed the motion but suggested the 75 years might be “more ideal and realistic “as compared to Chidanti’s suggested 65.
“As I had said last time, if in our Constitution we were able to set a minimum age limit for someone to qualify to compete for the Presidency then certainly it is logical to also have a maximum age limit. It would be naive and gullible enough as a country to solely live such a decision to political parties conventions as suggested by the Law Commission of 2006 when in practice we know that such forums are merely monopolised by the party leaders in order to advance their interests,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.
Munthali said members of Parliament should approach this issue with sober minds and in the best interest of the nation.
“However, as I had earlier suggested while this amendment on the maximum age limit should be done in the current sitting of Parliament, it would be important that its operationalisation should start in the 2024 elections. This would address the fears that some may have that this motion is being tabled simply to tactically stop some Presidential candidates from standing in 2019 elections purely on political reasons rather than age,” he stated.
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.
One posted her comment on Facebook recommending that all presidential candidates are subjected to mental and medical checks to assess suitability to execute the duties of the highest political office in the land.
“We needs medical opinion on whether an individual can still effectively execute the office of the president at 75,” commented Grace Nkhoma.
Many youth were incensed by remarks by Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe who said 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.
Gondwe, who will clock 82 this year, laughed off suggestions that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should replace President Peter Mutharika with a ‘baby’ during the 2019 polls because he is aging.
Gondwe rubbished former first lady Callista Mutharika remarks that Mutharika, at 79, would be too old to carry on as President as he would be 84 years old at the time of leaving office in 2024 if re-elected next year.
The former first lady argues that it is normal that thinking capacity levels deteriorate as one gets older, and, therefore, favours Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 45, to lead beyond 2019 elections.
However, other commentators say people should avoid age discrimination.
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