Simbarashe Fenton Mushonga
A clear testimony manifesting from the just ended 26 March by elections is that the youth continue to shun the ballot while placing a huge responsibility in the elderly to decide for them, a development likely to deter the much anticipated brighter future.
With the nation struggling economically with a runaway unemployment rate one would expect the youth to take an active role in electoral processes which are a key vehicle towards deciding their present and the future.
While the national Electoral Management Board, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is yet to release the official statistics on youth(s) who voted, observations by Community Voices Zimbabwe on several polling stations in Kwekwe Central, Mbizo and Gokwe central constituencies noted low youth voter turnout. Quite paradoxically, the three is high youth drug abuse with statistics proving that one in every four youth suffer from drug abuse , while youth-led violence has been rampant on the run-up to the 26 March by-elections.
International Young Peoples Developers Trust (IYPDT) Projects Manager Spencer Gochai argues that hopelessness has been the main drive, in this regard as a powerful emotion that often contributes to a dark or low mood and may adversely affect the way in which the youth now perceive themselves, other individuals, personal circumstances and even the world.
“Feelings of hopelessness can often lead to an individual losing interest in important projects, activities, events or people. Zimbabwe’s previous elections have failed to make an impact in the youth livelihoods resulting in the development of feelings of hopelessness. Now as an organisation we are concerned with youth development hence our motto, youth in sustainable development. Our focus is on the grassroots development of the youth in order for them to realise their full potential.
“We are here to tap on the youth skills as opposed to them engaging in drug and substance abuse and criminal activities. Kwekwe of late has become the hub of violent activities by our youth. IYPD seeks to divert the direction and focus on the youth from the destructive ones to the more beneficial developmental” said Gochai.
Under a normal democratic society whatever decision leaders make at all levels up to the executive should serve the interests of young people because they the future of the country is in their hands. Whatever development being that may take place are there to secure a brighter future as they are the leaders of tomorrow hence the future legacy rests upon their shoulders, but the question remains are they up to it, are they empowered enough.
“The youth are indeed failing to deliver on exercising their roles and rights and leaving the elderly to decide for them because they are told they are the future. This situation relegates them from active participation in elections and other activities which affect them.
“However it should be noted future begins now hence the youth must take an active role through active participation in elections and challenge for leadership positions. In this way, the youth can develop that suits their generation and shape their future” emphasized Gochai.
Young people bemoan the country’s political environment for voter apathy and their limited participation citing issues such as imposition of candidates, antagonistic and hate driven politics.
“Zimbabwe’s political environment is antagonistic and in most cases it is ‘all’ about revenge, a lot of blackmail rather than mere policy discussion. Think about it the way you want but the truth is the younger you are, the more personal you are and you view the world in those personal aspects.
“Another thing is the issue of imposition of candidates, I cannot vote for someone who does not live in my constituency, who does not have any idea what challenges we are facing who does not understand us as a people to be my MP or councilor, I would rather abscond voting” said a youth who identified himself as Beaven.
Sharing the same sentiments, Youth Connect Director Wordlisto Gambiza highlighted that ignorance has led to the failure by the youth to grab the bull buy its horns. Gambiza added that the dirty politics in most cases keep the youth very far away from voting and political participation.
“We are reluctant as the youth and we do not realise how powerful we can be if we make use of our rights and responsibilities to determine our future rather than to let the old guard do so for us. Some are afraid of the political violence and intimidation and they will end up being afraid to of taking part in the national processes. However, we need to remain vigilant, exercise our rights because if we do not take responsibility no one will’,reiterated Gambiza.
Social Justice campaigner and Media and Cultural Studies final year student at Great Zimbabwe University Romeo Mazuruse noted that the youth have become their own nemesis as they have every power to turn the current odds to their own advantage.
“The new generation is concerned with results not efforts. In other words they want change but they do not want to involve themselves in a process that inspire change. We are generation of fast money, fast fame, fast influence ( these fantasies define who we are).
“The youth lack the appetite to understand systems. We tend to ignore the fire whose flame will grow and burn us in the long run. The youth choose to watch football, do drugs than to read the country’s economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy 1 or follow up the boring local economic and political discourses. We need to change that all if we are to realise the power of youth vote and youth voice’, said Mazuruse .
In most of the rural setups, 50 percent of the youth(s) do not have national identity Cards despite being of legal age .This has been identified as one of the constraining elements in the enjoyment of socio-economic and political rights by the youth.
While addressing the youth at a workshop in Gawa, covered by this publication Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) facilitator Philemon Hwami stressed that inspite of being legally of age the majority of the youth in the area are yet to have national registration documents, a major setback and automatic repulsion from any form of developmental processes including the exercise of voting.
“I have noticed that the a sizable number of youth in this group do not have IDs as you failed to register some of you are in their twenties and as youth it is a challenge as you do not have IDs, you cannot even find a job or do anything progressive. Please talk to councilors, parents and to our church so that we will help with the issue.
“If you do not have an identification, it is like you do not exist in times of census you cannot be counted as an adult, you cannot even vote. That challenge needs to be addressed and we will facilitate this through relevant authorities,” said Hwami.
From the information gathered by this publication, the youth and other stakeholders cry foul on the government’s failure to professionally and objectively administer voter education, as majority of the youth remain ill-informed, ignorant on electoral processes and its full import to their lived realities. This has however, led the youth to alternatively engage in excusable activities such as drug and substance abuse, anti-social and maladaptive behaviors rebuking the exercise of voting.
“The Ministry of Youth in this instance cannot do enough because it is not led by a young person. Most proposed youth initiatives die a still birth because they exist only on paper and ceases to be practical, also due to lack of transparency and accountability within our government leaders on issues to do with finance and sharing of the nation coffers. Highly, this has an effect on the involvement of the youth in voting, development and leadership initiatives as the system highly marginalizes them to the periphery. The Ministry of youth has been reduced to a mere wing of the ruling party thereby robbing it of its role as an objective and a fully representational institution of the youth,” said a Gokwe youth who preffered anonymity.
Efforts to get a comment from Deputy Minister of Youth Hon.Tino Machakaire were not fruitful as his mobile number was not reachable by the time of publication.