When Should Politicians Pack Their Bags?

At what age or at what stage in their political career should politicians retire? It is a question gaining prominence in public discussion forums and the general public domain, more so that this is an election year. The answer though varies, depending on whom you talk to. Political analysts have their own take on the question. So do politicians, some of whom have retired to become successful farmers or found other rewarding careers. Political analyst Dr Andrew Niikondo says there is no law in Namibia that stipulates an age limit for public office-bearers, which he says creates quotloopholes for the old guard’s refusal to exit the political arena.quot His remarks follow concerns from some quarters of society who are questioning why old politicians are not making way for younger people.

quotIn terms of politicians there is no law that stipulates that at this age you must go. It’s not prescribed in any constitution of any political party that if you reach a certain age you can not go to parliament. The Namibian Constitution states that for one to become president, one has to be above the age of 35. But there is no law that says if you are 73 you can’t be in parliament,quot Niikondo said, adding that quotage is nothing but a number.quot

According to him, one would find someone who is 75 years old still physically and mentally fit to lead, better than someone who is 24 years old.

quotYou can’t just base your argument on age, there has to be a policy. If government comes up with a policy then it’s controllable. People will know and move out. If you deny them their human rights, then they will take you to court and the court will ask you why do you think the person should go. So there is a loophole,quot he maintained.

Retired politician Dr Libertine Amathila said she had felt it was time to call it quits and concentrate on other things. The former deputy prime minister is now a successful farmer.

quotI was lucky because I had bought my farm two years before my retirement. I had something to fall back on and I am a professional medical doctor, so if I wanted to open a clinic I could. Sometimes it is difficult because not everyone is prepared for retirement. Some feel it’s better to have government benefits such as having a driver. But when their time comes to retire then they will. But they are also needed to guide the younger ones,quot she said.

Political commentator Phanuel Kaapama asks whether the refusal to leave office is a personal choice or a matter of voters not wanting to let the politicians go. quotWould you blame the old guard or the young ones who refuse to take responsibilities, like the Swapo youth league brought a lot of retired generals to the 2012 congress. You find youth who don’t have confidence in other youths,quot says Kaapama.

Kaapama noted that the old politicians joined the liberation struggle when in their 20s, saying maybe it’s time for them to step down and be prepared to guide the younger leaders.

quotMy aice for those in their positions for 30 to 40 years is to step down. Government must have succession plans at all levels that give young leaders the opportunity to assume greater responsibility when the old guard step aside and provide guidance from the sidelines,quot he recommended.

He said at independence in 1990, the only minister above 60 years was Toivo ya Toivo and many were in their 30s and 40s. quotSo voters and members of different political parties have no reason to fear the youth because the leaders we have now were also young in 1990,quot he reasoned.

Another retired politician Andrew Matjila who served in politics between 1990 and 2000 said old politicians should reach the stage of saying enough is enough so that younger people can take over. quotYou must decide to shift aside a bit for young people to take over. When I see old women and men in parliament, you wonder where they get all the energy from. Some of them are as old as I am (82). I think they should leave parliament and go play with their grandchildren and do other things they missed out on. Life is too short. If you think you can retire when you are 90 years, you will never get time to do your personal things besides being in parliament,quot he said.

Clara Bohitile a businesswoman is another example of a former politician who quit politics. She is also a successful farmer. Bohitile was a member of the second and third National Assemblies from 1995 to 2005. She served as the Deputy Minister of Basic Education and Culture from 1995 to 2005, re-entered the National Assembly from 2007 to 2010 to replace Ben Amathila, who had retired and later rejoined parliament. In 2006, Bohitile was named the Emerging Farmer of the Year by the Namibia Agricultural Union.

Source : New Era