No midlife crisis in DA Youth, as party rejects 35-year-olds in youth structure

The DA congress on Saturday shot down a proposal to increase the age limit for its youth structure membership to 35.
The DA congress on Saturday shot down a proposal to increase the age limit for its youth structure membership to 35.
Image: Alon Skuy

The DA congress on Saturday shot down a proposal to increase the age limit for its youth structure membership to 35, with some delegates saying they don't want people who are well on their way to a midlife crisis in the DA Youth.

“The ANC and this broken national government would never be a metric or benchmark for our party to take decisions. This is not a constitutional principle, this is ANC policy and legislation that supports that,” said Carl Pophaim, a delegate objecting to the proposal.

“As the DA Youth, we need to be different. We need to show that we will speak to the real issues of youth and not someone who is well on their way to a midlife crisis,” added Pophaim.

He called on the party to maintain the youth cut-off age of 31.

And, indeed, it did — as 69% of the voting delegates voted for the status quo to remain.

Cape Town's Allister Lightburn said the DA must refuse to hold itself to a standard set by an ANC government, in which it seeks to keep older people in positions at the expense of young people.

Lightburn said this was because “we are not an ANC-lite; we are DA”.

“We are unique, we have our brand and we must refuse to set dangerous precedent of defining and redefining what youth is as this can be abused in the future,” he added.

Topollo Mokhati had proposed that the party amend its constitution on the criteria of who qualifies to be a DA Youth member, saying the age limit should be extended to 35.

Mokhati argued that allowing members of an older bracket would benefit the DA Youth as these would be more politically aware members who would provide more value because of their knowledge.

“It also enables us as a youth to speak to a demographic which is acquainted with 35 as an age bracket,” he said.

As things stand, the DA youth guidelines make it near impossible to create career youth politicians given that youth membership is automatically terminated once a member turns 31, he argued.

Citing the defunct National Youth Commission Act [1996] and the African Youth Charter which defined youth as between the ages 14 and 35, Mokhathi argued that the American definition also bore the same definition albeit splitting the youth into junior youth (14 to 24 age group) and senior youth between the age of 25 and 35.

He noted that even in the party's own young leaders' programme, the cut-off age is 35.

In rejecting the proposal, the DA's constitutional review committee had said a person aged 35 is often married, working, with children, and does not fit the profile of “youth”.

“The problems, needs and challenges experienced by a 16-year-old and 35-year-old are very different. It should be noted that there is no provision in the SA constitution determining the upper age limit for youth — this is something we must decide for ourselves in the DA.”

TimesLIVE


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