Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Correspondent
YOUTHS from across the political divide have declared that they will play a decisive role in next year’s elections.
If that comes to pass, it will signify a paradigm shift as the youths have previously not involved themselves much in electoral processes.
A study by an independent think tank — Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) revealed that out of the 41 percent of the eligible youth voters, only 14 percent of them participated in the 2013 elections through either contesting or voting.
In previous elections, youths were widely considered as political tools, as a means to an end, where some political players would buy them alcohol to do their dirty jobs.
But as the country’s political dynamics continue transforming, it is becoming clearer that the youths will not be bystanders in next year’s elections.
So far, a Bulawayo nurse, Ms Vimbainashe Musvaburi and Harare lawyer Ms Fadzayi Mahere among other youths have expressed their interest in running for Parliament as independent candidates.
Ms Musvaburi, who is eyeing Bulawayo South constituency, said she understands the issues affecting the youths hence her decision.
“I know I have the ears to listen and definitely the capability to act upon their issues; our issues and bring change to our communities. The youths in this constituency spend time in liquor stores drowning their sorrows in alcohol. As a matter of fact, we are now facing an extra problem which is alcohol abuse and addiction. I’m the rightful candidate because I want to change our situation,” said Ms Musvaburi.
Her pronouncement excited many young people on social media, who pledged to support her political endeavours.
But it has to be noted that social media presence does not translate to actual votes.
Even in political parties, youths have said they will be game changers.
Zanu-PF Youth League Secretary Cde Kudzanai Chipanga said youths will be the decisive factor in the coming elections.
“Youths are the ones who are going to decide who is going to win in the coming elections. It’s more of a youth’s game. In the past years, our elders were voting for Zanu-PF while the majority of our youths were not participating in these electoral processes,” said Cde Chipanga.
He said President Mugabe had given the green light for youths to stand in the coming election.
“The President and Zanu-PF have created a conducive environment for youths to participate in its internal processes. We are going to see more youths participating in political processes. President Mugabe has given the green light for youths to participate in these electoral processes,” said Cde Chipanga.
MDC-T Youth Assembly chairperson Mr Happymore Chidziva also said youths will be the deciding factor in the 2018 elections.
“The youths will be responsible for mobilising supporters. Their other role is for them to defend the vote, more of defining, securing and defending the vote. They will not just be voters but will be vying for public seats. Without the youths, there is no future. Without youths taking over public offices it will be a disaster for the nation,” said Mr Chidziva.
He said more youths are expected to vote in next year’s elections as they will be voting for the people they can easily relate to.
Mr Chidziva said the MDC-T had agreed that a minimum of 20 percent of the party’s Youth Assembly would contest seats for both Parliament and in local authority.
Political analyst Mr Richard Mahomva said the 2018 elections would be different as they will usher a new generation of leaders.
“This coming election is unique in the sense that it does not represent what has been known in the Zimbabwean context but Africa as a whole where the youth demographic is very important in terms of articulating the relevant political decision of the day,” said Mr Mahomva.
He said the participation of youths will shift focus from the liberation movements’ generation who have been the vanguard of political parties.
“It portrays a sense of renaissance of our nationalism trajectory to say the youths are coming into the fore. President’s projection, if you’ve been listening carefully during the Youth Interface rallies, is that the youths are showing a sense of political organisation. Their ability to mobilise people towards the revolutionary party rallies, that one on its own is a reflection that the youths demographic is playing a key role in moulding the political culture of our country.”
The director of a local non-governmental organisation, National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) Mr Liberty Bhebhe said his organisation will be running campaigns to encourage youth participation in the 2018 elections.
“We are working with young people under a campaign ‘I vote 2018’ which is meant to enlighten young people about their right to vote in the context of an emerging new framework of voter registration. The country is going towards a Biometric Voter registration system. And because it is technology based, it will excite the youth voter,” said Mr Bhebhe.
He said NYDT would create platforms such as public debates for youths who will be running for political office to express their views ahead of the elections.
“We will be providing space for young candidates to sell themselves. We will promote conversations for young candidates to sell themselves and that is the kind of assistance that we will offer the young people. We will not be rooting for any candidate specifically,” said Mr Bhebhe.