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What's the sense in removing term limits for an 81-year-old president?

19 Sep 2023 at 23:30hrs | Views
No one can deny that having a long life on earth is truly a blessing.

It is especially so in a country as Zimbabwe - where the life expectancy is only 64.7 years, based on the 2022 Population and Housing Census by the ZimStats (Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency).

This can be compared to Japan's figure, which stands at 84.62 years, or Hong Kong at 85.39.

As such, even for someone like me, who is now 50 years old, there is every reason to give praises and glory to our Almighty Jehovah God for a gift that even my own closest friends were unable to get.

Similarly, with age comes many advantages.

One of the greatest of these is wisdom - which is derived from years of experience, and can now be shared with the up and coming younger ones.

There is nothing as invaluable in this world as experience - which is described as 'the best teacher'.

With this wisdom from our elderly, we can then avoid most of life's pitfalls - as there is really nothing new under the sun - whilst, at the same time, looking at things through more mature steady sober lenses.

This is another advantage that comes with age - as the younger generation tends to be a bit more reckless, impulsive, and immature in their approach to issues.

Of course, we need to be clear that not everyone who has been on Mother Earth for a long time is sage and mature - since, I am sure, we have all come across that man or woman who refuses to grow up, and still acts like an 18 year-old!

No one can deny, though, that for this world go in the right direction, we need the wisdom and maturity of the older generation.

Nevertheless, there are also some cons associated with aging.

The major concern is certainly in relation to health - whether physical or psychological.

Let us be honest, I am no longer as agile and quick-witted as I used to be a decade or so ago.

This is due to my cognitive abilities, which - according to proven scientific research - are deteriorating with age.

No one can run away from the fact that both our bodies and minds degenerate as we get older.

Therefore, as much as age is generally agreed comes with wisdom - it is, however, linked to a number of cognitive challenges.

The most notable changes are declines in tasks that require one to quickly process or transform information to make a decision.

In the same vein, other aspects such as memory and executive cognitive function are negatively affected by age.

According to a science journal 'PubMed Central', there are structural and function changes in the brain that correlate with these age-related cognitive changes - including alterations in neuronal structure without neuronal death, loss of synapses, and dysfunction of neuronal networks.

Without boring anyone with all the nasty nitty-gritties, it is actually public knowledge that aging is associated with impaired functionality and performance.

That is one of the main reasons the vast majority of people retire from work in their 60s or 70s - depending on the nature of the profession.

Some, particularly in the sporting field, retire even much earlier.

This will be because the body and mind simply will no longer be able to cope.

Why should an arduous task as running a country be any different?

On 21st August 2016, I wrote an article directed at then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe, entitled 'Is it easier to be President of Zimbabwe than being a grade 6 teacher?'

This was in reference to the fact that, a school teacher (such as my late father) was compelled by law to retire at the age of 65 years - yet, there are no such provisions governing the head of state.

Are we then saying that teaching a class of school children is more demanding than heading a country?

As a matter of fact, it becomes even more bizarre when the sitting president is actually believed to be plotting the removal of term limits from the country's Constitution so as to run again for office in 2028.

This is the case with President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who turned 81 years old a few days ago.

By that time, he will be 86!

When I wrote the above-mentioned piece in 2016, Mugabe was 92 years old!

Of course, he was to be toppled in a military coup d'état a year later - ushering in his former protégé Mnangagwa, who was already 75 years old!

Why would a septuagenarian even be so eager to be the head of state and commander-in-chief of a country?

Not only that, but it is now quite clear he does not want to stop there - but actually follow in his mentor's footsteps in becoming a nonagenarian leader of Zimbabwe.

I am also witnessing an identical debate raging in the US - where next year's presidential election will likely pit an 82-year-old Joseph 'Joe' Robinette Biden (Democrat), against Donald John Trump (Republican) who will be 78!

As much as it has already been highlighted that, with age also comes wisdom - but no one can deny that the body and mind will no longer be ideal for the everyday hustle and bustle of governing a massive entity as a country.

This profound treasure (wisdom) can be better served in an advisory capacity - where such respectable people are kept close by for valuable consultations and advice.

Nonetheless, expecting an 81-year-old to effectively and efficiently run a country - more so, Zimbabwe, which is riddled with a plethora of economic and political challenges - is a bit of an overstretch.

That is why it was the height of madness for anyone to have even voted for Mnangagwa in the recent 23rd and 24 August presidential election.

Yet, he is widely believed to be planning to contest again in 2028!

Are we serious as a nation?

Maybe the Americans can afford to experiment with an octogenarian leader - since their economy is already the strongest on the planet - with a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of US$23.32 trillion in 2021.

At the same time, only 11.5 percent (about 37.9 million) of a 331.9 million population is living in poverty.

Whereas in Zimbabwe, the story is very different - with 49 percent of the 15 million population living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$1.90 a day), whilst two thirds of workers earning below the poverty datum line.

These are people who should clearly not be playing foolish games with their country.

Zimbabwe is in desperate need of a vibrant, energetic, astute leader - who can take us out of this misery and suffering.

Of course, this should have been a message better suited for before elections.

However, all this talk of amending the country's Constitution - in order for Mnangagwa to run again in 2028 - means we are already planning for the next plebiscite.

As Joseph de Maistre aptly put it: every country has the government it deserves.

In addition to that logic, we also deserve the suffering derived from that government - since we elected leaders we should have known where incapable of uplifting our livelihoods.

It is undeniable that what was witnessed in Zimbabwe on 23rd and 24th August fell far short of acceptable standards for free, fair and credible elections - a fact made abundantly clear by election observer missions from SADC, the AU-COMESA, Commonwealth, and EU.

Indeed, people (especially in rural areas) were frog-marched to polling stations by their traditional leaders - whereby they were forced or 'assisted' to cast their ballots for Mnangagwa and his ZANU PF party.

Furthermore, ruling party officials had been threatening villagers with a 'return to war' - evoking memories of the liberation struggle and other post-independence atrocities - in the event of losing to the opposition.

This, in addition to misinforming the electorate that their vote was not a secret - as the ruling establishment had ways and means of figuring out who voted for whom - thereby, resulting in unspecified dire consequences for the hapless culprit.

Needless to say, none of these people openly violating the country's laws were even brought to book.

I will not even go into the refusal by the country's electoral body (ZEC) in issuing out an auditable electronic voters' roll to all contesting parties - as stipulated in Section 21 (6) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13].

Nevertheless, in all these instances of a sham and gravely flawed election, there is one thing clear - there was obviously a huge number of those who voluntarily and eagerly voted for Mnangagwa.

Why, then, would anyone - especially one living in poverty - seriously believe an octogenarian will be the answer to the crisis facing Zimbabwe?

In fact, it would not be surprising at all that this suspected constitutional amendment will receive overwhelming support from ZANU PF grassroots members - who, themselves, are enduring the brunt of Mnangagwa's insufferable misgovernance!

Let me leave you with a final thought.

If Mnangagwa 'wins' the 2028 presidential election, he will be 91 years old at the end of that term in 2033!

All I can say to that is: let none of us cry that we are suffering, when we deliberately elect this suffering.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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