THE call by some in the ruling Zanu PF party for the presidential age limit to be raised to 52 years from 40 has caused mixed reactions, but what is there to it?
echoes with Conway Tutani
It should first be accepted that there is nothing wrong with the presidential age limit being raised – or even lowered – as long as it is done constitutionally, meaning a party with the requisite two-thirds majority in Parliament can effect that amendment in the supreme law of the land. That is a given when you have a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, more so after the MDC Alliance conceded parliamentary election defeat, solidifying Zanu PF’s hand to change the Constitution.
However, strangely, the MDC Alliance has refused to accept presidential election defeat whereas it’s the very same voters who cast ballots in both polls. Yes, there can be discordant couples in an ongoing sexual relationship where one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not, but to then say that voting in the July 30 national elections was so discordant as to give one party a landslide parliamentary victory and massive loss in the presidential election, as is being claimed by the MDC Alliance, is both astonishing and unbelievable, to say the least. I digress.
Many people don’t like the death sentence, but the government can go ahead and order the execution of death row prisoners. It’s actually a matter of choice for the government to make because the Constitution gives it the necessary leeway. Likewise, many people in the West are against the legalisation of homosexuality and the so-called same-sex marriage, but they cannot do anything about it because it is written into the Constitution.
Need it be repeated that a government with the necessary two-thirds majority in Parliament – as Zanu PF – has that constitutional elbow room, freedom of action to raise or lower the presidential age limit at its leisure and pleasure. These are the cold, hard facts about the matter. It falls into the category of common cause.
Second, there isn’t anything particularly wrong with either the MDC Alliance or Zanu PF showing their political muscle, but to then expect the other side to turn the other cheek is being unrealistically crybaby in a game of adults. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If you declare openly that you will block the government at every turn – as the main opposition MDC Alliance declared before, during and after the elections – what stops that very government from blocking you in turn by saying it will increase the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 52?
If you play hard ball, what stops the other side from playing hard ball? If you reiterate that you do not recognise President Emmerson Mnangagwa, why should you cry foul or victim when Zanu PF retaliates by raising the presidential age limit to bar 40-year-old MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa from contesting in the next election? If you go all-out in your attack, what stops the other side from responding in kind to outflank you? If you do not hold anything back, why should you demand that the other side holds back from raising the minimum presidential age limit? What can stop the other side from retaliating by applying Newton’s third law of motion that to every action there is an equal and opposition reaction?
Retaliation is a legitimate political weapon. The rule of law itself – as in the leeway to amend the Constitution allowed by having a two-thirds majority in Parliament – can be used as a political weapon, as could be lawfully done in this case.
The MDC Alliance has been openly saying tinozvidira jecha, meaning they will wilfully block any moves by the Zanu PF government so as to make the country ungovernable. Now Zanu PF is threatening to dira jecha to block Chamisa’s presidential ambitions, should the MDC Alliance complain when given the taste of its own medicine? As one can see, jecha is not the sole right and sole prerogative of the MDC Alliance.
In a war of words where both sides are criticising each other angrily, you cannot expect one side to take it lying down. Are they not calling each other Pfeerorists and Nerorists? Both sides are digging in, so no one side can accuse the other of being unreasonable. Everything has a consequence, doesn’t it?
As they say, all is fair in love and war. Nothing is out of bounds when it comes to love and war. The rules of hard play are acceptable in war. In such situations, people do not follow the usual rules of behaviour and do things that could normally be considered unfair, but not in any way unlawful.
We do not need “closed channel thinking” which always sees faults in others. All of this helps them to justify their actions. This type of thinking sees self as the victim and self as good, only looking at the positive side of one’s character while at the same time being self-possessed. Such people expect others to act on their demands. But this is unrealistic.
Many – if not most – of us are raised with preconceived notions of the life choices we are supposed to make. We should be aware that we inherit both the good and the bad. But one such unaware person proudly blurted out that he was brought up to specifically hate Dynamos and Zanu PF. He said this publicly because in his closed mind, no sane person could support Dynamos and Zanu PF. He had habituated or inured close-mindedness whereas there is no linkage to talk about between the two institutions. And you hear someone boastfully say that it’s a generational thing in their family to hate Highlanders and Zapu. Well, it sounds to me like a generational curse.
Such people brought up on a diet of hate can grow up into adults without a sense of proportion. As a result, they waste so much time and energy making decisions based on someone else’s idea of what is good or bad for them. These people, deprived or depriving themselves the leeway to think critically, accept whatever is said at face value, and will believe whatever they read, see or hear on the Internet or social media as the gospel truth – such as the science fiction that the “X” on the ballot paper would move from one candidate’s name to another.
Why should you be treated with kids gloves when you throw a bareknuckle fist? You should not cry foul if the other side goes further than you in exercising its leverage. If you play football, you are fair game to get tackled heavily and robustly. If you are in politics, you are legitimately and permissibly targeted for retaliation. If your bluff is called, you cannot cry foul. Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but playing a poor hand well. The hardest tumble a man can take is over his own bluff.
Now it’s open season during which Mnangagwa and Chamisa – both being currently endorsed by their respective parties as presidential candidates for 2023 – can be subjected to sustained attack. By the time the games end, it is hoped that sanity will prevail for people to come to their senses and appreciate the wisdom of having rules of engagement and ground rules specifying the limits of play – or play-acting.
Meanwhile, it’s jecha for jecha where what is unfair is not necessarily unlawful. Let the games begin!
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org