The Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (Sapsn) has said the presidential aspirants’ age limit in the southern region should be 30 years to accommodate youths.

In its 2018 Sadc People Summit Communique submitted to the just-ended Sadc heads of State and government, Sapsn said the move would help increase youth participation in national governance.

“We now, therefore, call on Sadc member States and governments to address the following issues raised by the different clusters who convened at the 2018 Sadc People Summit at the Windhoek Show grounds: Reduction of retirement age to at least 55 as well as a reduction in the age at which one is eligible to contest in presidential elections to 30 years,” the communique reads in part.

In Zimbabwe, one is eligible to contest in the presidential elections when he or she is 40 years and above.

The call comes amid reports that Zanu PF legislators were planning to increase the presidential aspirants’ age limit to 55.

Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba has threatened to table the motion in the Ninth Parliament, which will scuttle MDC Alliance’s 40-year-old presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa’s bid to contest in the next polls.

The retirement age in Zimbabwe is between 60 and 65 years, but military personnel classified as experts can now go up to 75 years.

Sapsn said Sadc member States and governments should come up with sustainable youth economic empowerment programmes or fund and set an average salary wage for employees.

“In the same vein, all Sadc governments to set up an ICT fund, increase investments in education, health, agriculture and ensure academic freedoms,” it said.

“Ensure that all countries demilitarise the civilian space and governments and return to civilian rule and uphold the rule of law,” it said.

The civic group also lobbied Sadc to strengthen independent institutions that support democracy in the region.

It also demanded an inquest into the murders of civilians in Zimbabwe on August 1, 2018.

Early this month, the army in Harare was deployed to disperse MDC Alliance supporters who had taken to the streets, protesting against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for allegedly delaying in announcing the presidential election results.

The army was called in to assist the police quell the riots, resulting in seven people losing their lives and many getting injured.

Sapsn said Sadc and the African Union must develop action plans and implement initiatives that strengthen democracy before, during and after elections as well as ensure that election observer missions move from election observation to election monitoring.

Political analyst Earnest Mudzengi said: “Personally, I have no problem with that because someone who is 30 can be more mature than the one who is 60. Let the people have an option to choose who can be their leader.”

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