Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let Sata stand

Let Sata stand
By Editor
Tuesday December 18, 2007 [03:00]

It will be a very serious injustice to deny old people the right to participate in the political affairs of their country. We think old people shouldn’t be denied the right to engage in political affairs. The suggestion being peddled by defence minister George Mpombo that old people should be barred by the constitution to participate in politics is a very dangerous idea.

The constitution of our country cannot guarantee that life will treat everyone equally. However, under no circumstances should it impose additional inequalities; it should be required to give everyone equality.

It will be very unfair to stop people in their 60s, 70s or 80s from fully participating in the political affairs of their country.

The matter of age is relative. It depends to a great extent on the person, on their state of health. Some people have to retire while they are still very young because their health doesn’t allow them to work; others continue to carry out public functions at 70, 75 and even 80 or more, because their health is good enough for them to do so.

It also depends on the tasks. Some tasks are very easy, while others are more difficult. In a revolution, the tasks are very hard, difficult; a great effort is required. Therefore, you have to give it your all and make a great effort to carry out your tasks.

It also depends on a person’s motivation. If you don’t have very powerful motivation, there is very little you can achieve whatever your age. Some tasks require very powerful motivation and, above all, a very great need for one to do them.

The modern world has seen a large number of statesmen who were much older than Michael Sata, whom Mpombo is today saying is too old to participate in political affairs.

Philosophising a little on this controversial subject that Mpombo has brought up, we would certainly agree with the proponents of the theory that leaders should be as young as possible. We would agree even though, in “The Republic”, Plato said that no person should make themselves responsible for affairs of the state until they were 55 and that they should spend the preceding time preparing themselves for assuming important state functions.

But it shouldn’t be forgotten that in Plato’s era, life expectancy was 50 or a little lower, so, adjusting the figure to allow for a generally higher life expectancy of today’s modern society, we calculate that, in line with Plato’s concept, modern humans should be around 80 before they assume functions of the state. We think 80 is too old, however.

We would recommend that young people be the ones to carry out difficult state functions, revolutions. When you are 21, 30, 40, 50 you can do things that you can’t do when you are 60, 70 or 80.

We think a little more maturity is needed for guiding a state and developing a deep political process.

Really, we wish our political leaders had the experience that old people have together with the energy that the youths possess. In these difficult times, that require so much efforts, above all, we wish our political leaders have the youth, because a lot of energy is required, and special effort is needed to do what needs to be done. We think it would be much better if they could combine youth and experience.

But whatever the age, people shouldn’t get into politics to satisfy any personal desires. If they know their work is useful, they should do it for the nation, for the country and not to satisfy personal ambitions – but simply to do their duty.

And moreover, we should avoid making laws that simply target individuals. It will be criminal for us to come up with a constitution that sets an upper-age limit, say at 70, so that Sata is barred from contesting the Republican presidency in 2011. This is not fair; this will not be just.

There is absolutely no need to put an upper-age limit in our constitution for one to contest the presidency of our country. Let us leave this for our people to decide on a case by case based on the merits or demerits of the individual involved. What nature has decreed should not generate undue insecurity. If your attitude is to do things which are going to please the community and human beings, then of course you are likely to live a long life.

And no one should take away any political rights from our old people, some of whom who have fought a noble battle and lived their lives in pursuit of better life for all of us.

Those from that generation, who are singled out to stay the longest, should not have their political rights curtailed in any way. It should be left to themselves and the voters to decide the nature and form of their continued political participation. And let us not forget that most of the liberties we enjoy today are the sweet fruit of their lives of struggle and sacrifice.

Whatever constitution we come up with should be a covenant that we shall build a more fair, just and humane society in which all Zambians, regardless of age, will be able to walk tall without being discriminated against, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity. We agree that it is not wise that a robust country like ours should be led by someone in their 80s, a septuagenarian.

But this should not be legislated; there shouldn’t be any constitutional provision or article curtailing the political participation of old people. Doing so will be a serious violation of their human rights.

Equally, setting the minimum age for a presidential candidate at 35 is unfair, especially in a country whose average life expectancy is 37. This is denying many of our people a chance to fully participate in the political affairs of their country before they die. It will be much better, more fair and just to push this age much lower.

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