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Implications of proposed amendments on youths

with youth in mind:BY YETT

On December 31, 2019 and January 17, 2020, the government gazetted Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2. Should it be passed by Parliament, the Bill will introduce several wide-ranging changes to the constitution of Zimbabwe. One of the proposed amendments seeks to reserve 10 proportional representation seats in the National Assembly for youth. The Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) analysed of Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 of 2019, examining each of the proposed provisions from a youth perspective.

Specifically, the assignment sought to determine the implications of the proposed amendments on the youth’s status and opportunities for development.

Following the initial draft of the analysis, YETT facilitated two youth consultative meetings in which over 60 youth organisations from across Zimbabwe participated. The meetings validated the analysis done by YETT. This youth position paper is an outcome of all the processes highlighted above.

Youths’ position
Young people object to the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 based on the desire to protect the integrity and status of the constitution. The majority of young people consulted stated that amending the constitution is not the solution; the government should prioritise realignment and the implementation of laws.

The following are the key thoughts and opinions on the proposed Amendment Number 2 Bill:

Extending the women’s Parliamentary quota
lThe proposed amendments seek to extend the current provision regarding the women’s parliamentary quota which reserves a maximum of 60 proportional representation seats in the National Assembly for a further two parliaments. This is a violation of sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution, which guarantee gender parity at all levels of leadership.

lA 50/50 system should be adopted with reforms of the electoral laws to capture the principles within Section 17 of the constitution in order to see the equal representation of women realised within the 210 seats (105 women, 105 men, with youth representing 50%).

lThere is need for fast-track realignment of laws, bills, acts and policies in order to achieve provisions in section 17; section 56(2); and section 80.

Realignment and the existing proportional representation should limit bias to party politics and ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities. There is need for political will and support from political parties in order to realise these changes.

lIn the absence of 50/50 representation, the proportional representation should be revised to account for electoral reforms, mentorship, capacity building and leadership training of women in Parliament and those aspiring to be politicians.

The youth quota
lThe proposed amendment seeks to reserve 10 seats in the National Assembly for youth. On the surface, this appears to be a positive development. However, the effect will be to increase the size of Parliament, and the consequent burden on the fiscus, without enhancing the role of young people in politics. In reality, there will be one youth member of parliament from each province.

lWhile increasing youth representation in Parliament is welcome, the proposed amendment identifies only one door for youth to enter into Parliament. This is through membership of a political party; which party would nominate and recommend these persons for election under the party list system.

lIt is also clear that the amendments come in an ageist political environment that positions youths as lacking ability, competence and experience in all aspects of politics. Consequently, this politics of exclusion restricts youth ideas or their implementation in Zimbabwe. This situation has the consequence of making youths dependent on older politicians, with the effect of exposing youths to exploitation and control by actors who have the political and financial muscle to “buy” the energy of the youths. When youths do participate in these processes, it is tokenistic. Their views are never taken seriously and are overridden by adults. This diminishes the desire by young people to take part in any discussions or events when they feel that they are just adding to the numbers.

lThe Amendment does not directly address existing laws and practices that limit the participation of youths and young persons in political life. The proposed youth quota is not enough: it should be representative in nature, considering that youths make up the overwhelming majority of the population.

Any youth quota system should not be dominated by party politics and must ensure inclusivity to cater for marginalised groups of young people such as young women and youths living with disabilities.

lThere is need for representation of youth in all public office/ leadership positions from the grassroots going upwards, e.g, starting at village, ward, council to national level.

Legislative alternatives to constitutional amendments
The following are alternatives to constitutional reforms aimed at achieving real and not token youth representation, participation and empowerment:

Legal candidate quotas: Under this option, political parties are obligated to fill all their candidate lists with a minimum number of young people. This must be reflected or provided for in the electoral law, with necessary sanctions or compelling measures.

Voluntary quotas for youth: In terms of this option, political parties are encouraged to embed voluntary quotas for youth in their internal party regulations and place young candidates in electable positions.

This could be coupled with incentives through the public funding of parties with a minimum threshold of youth representation.

Youth participation in local council elections: There is need to amend the electoral laws so as to entrench youth participation in local council elections.
Local council elections are key; they can be the training ground for youths before they rise to higher national office. It is easier to institute youth quotas for local elections by amending the Electoral Act, the Rural District Councils Act and the Urban Councils Act.

Adopt strategies to raise awareness on importance of youth participation in politics: Government should adopt strategies to raise awareness about the importance of youth participation in politics before thinking of a ticket to parliamentary office. These strategies can include expressions of support from parliamentary leaders for more youth voices in politics, as well as institutional changes enabling youths to exert greater influence on candidate selection.

Youth participation in civic processes
The following section provides the youth position on other provisions of Amendment 2 Bill:

Abolition of the running mate system:

lThe amendment proposes to abolish the running mate system for the vice-presidency and replaces it with a system that allows the President to pick his/her two VPs after an election.

lThe proposed changes mean that there will be no direct participation of the youths, the general electorate and other social groups in the election of two of the three members of the presidium.

lAn appointment system is less likely to promote accountability: The appointed person is better off paying homage to his/her appointing authority rather than the electorate. What the amendment, therefore, seeks to introduce is a system where the two appointed VPs are mere appendages of the President with no real power to propose contrasting policy directions.

An option would include amending the Political Parties (Finance Act) to introduce a youth quota threshold as a criteria of accessing public funding by political parties
Judicial promotions and extension of tenure:

lFrom a youth-based perspective, the extension of judges’ final retirement without lowering the age for qualification as a judge is worrisome.

lA person needs to be 40 years to qualify for judicial office; in practice, rarely have persons less than 45 been appointed. From the Amendment’s perspective, youth cannot qualify for judicial office at all — they are simply too young!

lIn terms of the Amendment, there is simply no adequate space for effective inclusion of the youth in the higher echelons of the judicial sector. Clearly, this runs against section 184 of the 2013 constitution which demands judicial appointments to reflect “broadly the diversity and gender composition of Zimbabwe”.

The amendment and devolution:
lThe amendment proposes doing away with the structure for provincial councils, to be replaced by a new structure consisting of chairperson of the council, the mayors and chairpersons of all urban and rural local authorities in the province concerned and 10 persons elected by a system of proportional representation.

l As is the case with the women’s and youth quota in the National Assembly, political parties will determine membership of the provincial councils. There are no measures or additional measures to insist on youth representation in provincial councils.
Read full article on www.standard.co.zw

l YETT is a youth networking organisation committed to the full participation of young people in sustainable development through advocacy and capacity building of youth and youth organisations in Zimbabwe.

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