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The youth, their vote and the future

An analysis of the past four national elections held in 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2013 makes sad reading.

Sunday Opinion with Elias Mudzuri

The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) shockingly revealed that in the 2013 harmonised elections, only 8,87% of the youth were on the voter’s roll while the registration rate among those aged 80 and above was an incredible 219%.

The statistics on the youth translates to nearly 2 million people who did not vote. Youth participation in these elections was negligible, except when used as instruments of violence and intimidation by political entrepreneurs.

The reasons why youths are not voting vary from one dais to the other. Common among the reasons were lack of identification cards, lack of knowledge of the Zimbabwean political terrain and youths not being interested in the political dynamics of the country.

Many graduates are selling airtime in the streets in order to survive. The government thinks it is normal for one to go to university and at the end of the day sell lolly pops and airtime at traffic intersections. What a shame!

Independent researchers have revealed that the general unemployment rate stands at more than 80%.

Any country’s social and political terrain can be defined and determined by the youth. This is not just because of who they are, but it is a fact that youths constitute 67% of the voting population in our country. Naturally, it means that their views must be appreciated.

It is sad to realise that the youths are some of the most abused and disenfranchised groups of people in Zimbabwe. This is witnessed by how some of them are used for violence purposes during election time. Some are discriminated against on purely tribal lines when opportunities avail themselves. Youths in Zimbabwe are at the receiving end of poor governance, corruption and to some extent HIV and Aids.

Given such a scenario, one then is forced to think deeply about the present and future of the youths. The youth have not defined and determined their future since the 1980 election. They have remained bystanders and complainants of the exclusion mechanisms entrenched in the voter registration processes and the long queues that come with the process.

I challenge the Zimbabwe youth today, that 2018 should be their year of starting to map their future by voting in their largest available numbers and choosing the government they want.

The youths must set down their expectations and their cause for seeing a government that rids itself of corruption, social exclusion, clientelism, impunity, tyranny and non-democratic practices that deprive all Zimbabweans of accountable, transparent and efficient state institutions.

Every young citizen must see their future embedded in the institutionalisation of competitive state institutions that allow and tolerate accommodation and participation of different talents in the economy.

The youths must realise that when they go to school, college or university, at the end of the day they are supposed to be empowered through jobs or entrepreneurial activities.

Youths are the critical substratum of any nation. The youths of the 60s and 70s which included me, were very clear of the cause and agenda for the armed struggle against the white settler regime.

When I joined the liberation struggle with my peers, we were very clear of what we were fighting for including political warts of inequality, racial discrimination, unequal governance structures and ultimately achieve equality through democratic institutions that valued effective universal adult suffrage.

We wanted to bring independence and freedom for all, including our former oppressors.

Student leaders in the 80s and early 90s like Arthur Mutambara, the late Learnmore Jongwe, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, Deprose Muchena, Brian Kagoro, Takura Zhangazha, Tendai Biti, Nelson Chamisa, Philani Zamchiya and Tawanda Mutasa, had a cause and passion for the democratisation of Zimbabwe.

With the current crop of student leaders, there is need to “show cause” for their existence in the face of a deep national crisis, especially in a country where there are poor educational facilities and near-zero employment opportunities at attachment level and soon after graduation. The youth have nothing to show in a country with a vast field of natural resources, but instead they wait for hand-outs. Hence the need for them to wake up and be counted!

Engineer Elias Mudzuri, is a former Executive Mayor of Harare and former Minister of Energy and Power Development. He is writing in his personal capacity.

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