Does age matter in politics?

2014-05-04 06:01

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Age, the late songstress Aaliyah declared in her 1994 hit, ain’t nothing but a number.

And it seems to be true in politics too: the oldest candidate for Parliament this year is Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi (85) and, at the other end of the spectrum, there are two teenagers – Shela Caroline Majoko and Christo Johannes Lues (both 19). See how the parties matched up in the last elections:

Surprisingly, one of the oldest candidates on any party’s list is a red beret: at 75, Arnold Mthuthuzeli Specman is on the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) national list.

Political analyst ProfessorTinyiko Maluleke said a share of more than 7% of the votes for the EFF may change the face of Parliament.

“The better they do, the more likely we are going to see diversity.

Nineteen is not too young for Parliament, says Specman, a former uMkhonto we Sizwe and ANC veteran.

“In 1994 it didn’t matter how old the parliamentarians were, they didn’t know the protocols and functions of Parliament. They learned the ropes.

“(Younger candidates) may not be the most articulate but don’t underestimate the data and information available to them.”

He said the governing party had failed to teach young people about politics.

“Once [the ANC] saw freedom, they threw away the young people and don’t care about them.”

He said he joined the EFF to mobilise young people, whom he believes are “clever” and have “fresh minds”.

His wisdom and experience, Specman said, will complement the youth’s drive and passion.

Lues, who joined the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) six months ago, said politics needed young people.

“I looked at the FF+ manifesto. I like what they stand for, the Afrikaner and the minority.

“I believe the older generation has a lot to teach us and I am ready to learn.”

Majoko, who is studying mechanical engineering at a an FET college in Limpopo, said she was excited to be on the EFF’s National Assembly list.

She previously served in the structures of the Young Communist League, but found the league focused too much on politics and not enough on education.

“I believe in the policies of the EFF. As a young person, it is going to help me. I believe education is everything and the EFF advocates free education until tertiary level.”

Maluleke said youth representation in Parliament was essential because most South Africans are aged between 18 and 35.

But, he warned: “We can’t assume young people in Parliament will represent youth issues.”

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