By Patrick Zhuwao
On the side-lines of the African Union Summit of 2017, under the theme of Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investing in Youth, I started my address to the African Youth Commission, as its inaugural Patron, by presenting a picture of President Robert Mugabe greeting Junior President Tinaye Mbavare. I indicated that President Mugabe was then, at 93 years old, seventy-five years older than his 18 year-old Junior President. That picture represented generational renewal in a symbolic manner.
Since then that representation of generational renewal has been contrasted by several conversations that have mistaken ageism for generational renewal. As Zimbabwe prepares for the 2018 elections that will jettison the illegitimate and unconstitutional ZANU PF Junta, it is important that we do not mistake the noble notion of generational renewal with the retrogressive idea of ageism, which violates the Constitution of Zimbabwe; more specifically section 56(1), the equality clause, which prohibits discrimination on various grounds including race, sex and age.
Just the other day, I had a conversation with a friend who claimed that he sympathises with and would vote for any young person below 50 years of age. According to him, anyone above fifty years of age is in the same WhatsApp group of golden oldies who have reached their sell by date in politics. This therefore meant that he would sympathise with and vote for any murderer, rapist, paedophile or violent thug, as long as they were below fifty years of age even if the victim of such crime is his own five-year-old daughter. Conversely, his pro ageism position would lead him to equate his own 64-year-old mother with Gukurahindists running the Lacoste Junta, purely on primitive grounds of ageism.
I also had another conversation with a young business fellow who said she would vote for a young Presidential candidate and would not entertain a candidate who was a veteran of the liberation struggle. According to her, a veteran of the liberation struggle must be voted for only by war veterans and young people should vote for a young candidate below fifty years of age. Whilst I can understand that this position is largely a reaction to the stockholder and entitlement mantra of the illegitimate and unconstitutional ZANU PF Junta, I would urge friends to avoid being drawn into countering such negativities with equally reprehensible negativities.
Just like entitlement, ageism is a retrogressive social and political negative.
The two conversations that I have highlighted above are indicative of a notion known as ageism. Ageism is discrimination and stereotyping of persons because of their age. By its very nature, ageism is like racism and sexism by basing discrimination based on the respective natural phenomenon of race and sex. Ageism, racism and sexism do not consider any other contextual factors; they do not account for ideological factors, they do not interrogate policy issues and they do not address issues of content. Ageism is content-free, like racism it is ideology-free, and like sexism it is also policy-free.
As we prepare for the 2018 elections, we must interrogate where the various political formations stand on this issue by looking at the ideologies of the various political parties. The ideological foundations of National Patriotic Front (NPF) rests on three pillars. One of the three pillars on which NPF’s ideological foundation rests is the “intergenerational and transformational aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe”. Critical to that pillar is the demographic reality that 46% of Zimbabweans are children below 15 years, 31% are youth between 15 and 35 years, and 23% are above 35 years. This pillar institutionalises the concept of generational renewal in a manner that no other political formation does.
In contrast to NPF, there are some political formations that have taken on board ageism by focussing on a specific age. Such attempts seek to portray an image of generational renewal when in fact they are merely displaying ageism. What makes the matter worse is that these manifestations of ageism are being done for the manipulative purposes of attracting voters. In other words, they are just an election gimmick; which is content-free, policy-free and ideology-free.
As Zimbabweans begin to cure the 15 November 2017 coup at the 2018 elections, it is important that we rise up to display our world reknown reputation of being one of the world’s well educated populations by making a distinction between the noble notion of generational renewal and the counterfeit zhing-zhong fraud of ageism. We are not a people that is content-free, policy-free or ideology-free. We must remember that the slogan, “Iwe neni tine basa“, that President Mugabe gave us on 19th November 2017 is for all generations.
Iwe neni tine basa. Umsebenzi loUmkhulu.