The National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO) notes with concern the recent remarks by some newly elected Members of Parliament to effect a constitutional amendment raising the age limit for election to the Office of the President from the prescribed age of 40 years. Youth have in the last six months been engaged in a campaign for Youth Eligibility for Public Office consulting citizens on the matter and collecting signatures that shall constitute our joint submission as youth to the Parliament of Zimbabwe. Countries such as Nigeria have lowered their eligibility age cap for public office, while South Africa has no age restrictions on eligibility for public office.
Every Zimbabwean citizen above the age of eighteen has the right to vote as enshrined in section 67 (3) of the Constitution and section 67 (3) b equivocally states that, “any Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over the age 18 years of age has the right to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold such office.” It is imperative to note that section 91 (1) b of the constitution limits presidential candidates to forty years of age; section 121(1) b limits Senate candidates to at least forty years and Parliamentary candidates are limited to 21 years of age as enshrined in section 125(1) b of the Constitution. We categorically are challenging this inconsistency as Youth, as this only serves to discriminate youth and is inconsistent with section 56 of the constitution which is clear on equality and non-discrimination of persons in accessing opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. Further to this, section 20 (b) of the Constitution places emphasis that youth that is from 15 to 35 years should, ‘have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life’ – this including access to public office at the different levels established by the constitution.
We note the urgent need to put in place progressive mechanisms that allow for youth to access public office and the need to uphold resolutions at the global and regional level such as the United Nations Security Council Resolution (2250) and the African Union and European Union (AU-EU) Youth Summit Agenda which are encouraging governments to lower the age cap for eligibility to public office. As youth we implore the new Parliament of Zimbabwe and Government to:
- To foster effective youth participation by removing barriers such as restrictive age caps for public office;
- Stand guided in enacting laws and policies that promote inclusiveness and representative governance which acknowledges the unique contributions that each citizen has to make in building our beautiful country – this including young people who have largely been marginalized and disenfranchised in governance processes.
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