GWERU: As the nation heads for a by-election this week, youth representation in Midlands Province has remained low with many youths citing challenges as fear and limited resources to be deterring their political ambition.
Youth leaders have often been spared intra-party-political posts and such have been criticized by analysts saying such posts put youth on the forefront of being scapegoats than being in the policy formulation game.
Being scapegoats, youths have also been front runners in exacerbating political violence in support of politicians who often forget about them when they win elections.
Such was lucidly depicted during the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Kwekwe rally that turned bloody as Zanu PF youths attacked opposition activists causing one death. In the said incidence, 16 people were initially arrested and 14 of these were of ages between 18 and 35 making them youths.
The Zimbabwean Constitution Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 Section 20 particularly states that ‘youths are defined as people between the ages of 15-35 years;’ guided by the Africa Youth Charter for which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
Background has it, also based on the demography, that youths constituted a large number of people who disturbed a Zanu PF meeting at the party’s Midlands Winery base during the formation of the party’s Provincial Coordinating Committee and had been supposedly sent by former Minister of State Security, Owen Ncube.
This is however against Zimbabwe Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda sentiments earlier last year that ‘ama 2000’s’ (referring to the millennials) should now be recruited into politics and help sustain power.
Odd for a ruling party member to pass such sentiments considering the outcry that the government is purposefully blocking this age group from acquiring identification on the fear that they can not whip them into voting for the ruling party.
Whether youths are willing to take political positions and be involved in decision-making processes remains a question to be answered by their willingness to answer the call to political participation outside their respective parties but in decision-making chambers as councils, parliament, and or cabinet.
Bemoaning the current trend, campaigning to be a legislator in Gweru’s Mkoba constituency, Malvern Zihape (30) said it was sad how youths are ‘left in the cold with minor roles or used as political thugs.’
The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) however says fear, lack of knowledge, and resources are major deterrents to youth participation in politics.
“Most youths grew up in a violent political environment, therefore to them politics remain mirrored as a dangerous game. The practice of progressive politics rather than partisan politics can in this age and time lure youths to participate in government electoral processes,” said the union’s spokesperson, Lenon Mazuru.
It is however worth noting that youths are the least represented population in governance issues amid the fact that Zimbabwe’s population is dominated by the young demography, making up 70% of the total population.
In the Midlands, only two youthful leaders, Doubt Ncube (Ward 3 Councilor) and Levison Chimina (Chiwundura Legislator) who have since come of age represented the youth in council and parliament respectively.
“You need inspiration, something that pushes you to attain your goal first. Thereafter, participation is key. Participation is not going to be coached on how to distract meetings over beer though but a note-taking process. The road is not easy though as some leaders are not ready to pass the button,” Ncube said while he narrated how he sailed through.
An exiled political activist who was in his time Zimbabwe’s youngest councilor, Godfrey Kurauone also said youth should start believing in themselves.
“Youths should believe in themselves and know they are the custodians of change and new ideas in governance. It is sad how youths have become keyboard warriors to complain and criticize while they should be rising and being the change.
“Most want to change but it’s also ironic how we don’t want to change. It’s also about resources as I was able to grab power straight from college but ideas we share with the people. Trying is worth it since there will be nothing for us without us as young people,” Kurauone said.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also has it that of Zimbabwe’s population, 30% have left for greener pastures beyond borders and the majority of them are youths.
“Empowered with knowledge and skills to protect themselves and make informed decisions, young people can realize their full potential and contribute to economic and social transformation,” UNFPA believes.
Based in the Netherlands, student activist Treasurer Bhosopo however maintained that lack of participation is due to a lack of resources.
“Youths go to greener pastures because the situation is bad. We want to work for our country but in return for the bad economic situation, politics never pays you back. That’s why research has it that 85% of Zimbabwean youths would leave the country given a chance.
“As a result, youths don’t have a financial competitive advantage. This definitely gets all the young out of the game. This adds to our politics excluding young people with positions being awarded to one’s history with a certain political party,” Bhosopo said.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth Sports and Arts chaired by Mathias Tongofa in response to a petition on the setting up of a youth commission to disband the national youth council on state capture allegations made consultations on formation to the formation of a youth commission in 2019 but no further action has been communicated to date.
Youths across the country have also loudly declined the formation of a youth quota in parliament in preference for equal opportunity in the political playing field.
The youth also demanded among other issues that ‘the youth quota must be age specific’ and that they ‘do not want 10 seats added to the current seats as this is expensive and come out of taxpayer’s money saying that the youth quota must be made from the seats that already exist.’