MANEPO against presidential age limit – Capital Radio Malawi
4 March, 2024

MANEPO against presidential age limit

Strongly against the move -Kavala

The Malawi Network of Older Persons (MANEPO) is against the proposed constitutional amendment rendering persons above 80 years of age ineligible to contest for the presidency.

MANEPO’s stand follows media reports that Mulanje Central legislator Kondwani Nankhumwa plans to present a Private Member Bill on the presidential age limit.

This marks the second endeavor following the previous attempt in 2018.

During that period, legislator for Nsanje South West Joseph Chidanti-Malunga proposed capping the maximum age for presidential aspirants at 65.

The amendment Bill under consideration aims to modify Section 80 (6) (b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, on the age qualifications of presidential candidates during elections. The proposed change involves the addition of the phrase ‘and is not more than eighty years old’ to the concluding part of the Section.

At present, Section 80 (6) of the Constitution, which stipulates eligibility of candidates for presidency, thus including the Vice-President, specifies that candidates must be Malawian citizens by birth or descent, and must have reached the age of 35. However, there is no upper age limit specified.

In a statement signed by the organization’s Country Director Andrew Kavala, MANEPO describes the proposed Bill as retrogressive, undemocratic, and completely based on erroneous assumptions.

It further categorizes the proposed Bill as ageism, constituting bias, discrimination, or bullying against individuals and groups based on age.

“It infringes upon the democratic rights of all Malawians to participate in the democratic process by excluding those aged 80 and above. Besides, MANEPO wonders whether such a Bill would also bar individuals above 80 from becoming members of parliament or assuming the role of the Speaker of the National Assembly,” reads part of the statement.

It adds that: “MANEPO’s stance is firm. The fundamental premise of the amendment suggesting that the presidency requires individuals below 80 years is based on illogical and unfounded assumptions as there is no scientific evidence that persons aged 80 and above lack mental competence and vigor required for the highest office of the land.”

In an interview with Capital FM, Kavala says: “We are monitoring the debate and we will keep reminding Malawians to remain sober and ensure that proposed amendments to the laws in Malawi are based on facts, are based on evidence, and not on assumptions.”

He adds that: “Our firm position is that the National Assembly in Malawi should seek to overcome and remove barriers that exist for older persons rather than reinforce already existent assumptions, which will have serious consequences for older persons in urban and rural communities in the short and long term.”

He says in a country where older persons continue to endure harassment, assault, stigma, and killings, this Bill does little to challenge and transform misconceptions and deeply embedded attitudes toward older people.

“Interestingly, the National Assembly is on the verge of passing an Older Persons’ Bill, which aims to ensure that every older person enjoys their human rights, free from all forms of ageism and discrimination,” Kavala says.

“Consequently, this Private Member’s Bill contradicts the spirit of this imminent Bill. MANEPO emphasizes the principles of human rights, advocating for fair treatment based on individual merit rather than age-based assumption. Globally, older persons make significant contributions to society and we must not limit their potential,” he adds.

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