That the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) officials expressed disappointment about the youths’ lack of interest in the historic undertaking indicates that the organisers of the exercise expected a much better role by that population sector.
By the youths, we are referring to people aged between 18 and about 35 to 36 years. The highest age varies from one nation to another, some countries pegging it at 33 years. Their reason is that those described as the youth of a nation should belong to the same generation, and that 33 years is the length of a generation.
Whatever it is, we are all agreed that all nations have youths, and so does Zimbabwe. In normal circumstances, youths are a dynamic part of every society. They are full of what some high school students term “vim, vigour, verve and vitality!” (The four “Vs” of youth.)
Youths are energetic and enthusiastic about life, hence their active participation in physical sports such as soccer and rugby, boxing and swimming, tennis and track events.
Youths are, above all, revolutionary. They would like to see this world change socially, culturally, politically and technologically.
It is most unusual to hear an 18-year-old boy say he would like to continue living in the same socio-political or socio-cultural environment into which he was born.
That is because almost every youths would like to change the world, whether for better or for worse does not concern us here.
What we are looking at here is the fact that the youths of Zimbabwe are said to be showing no interest in a process that is creating a future national constitution.
It is important to point out most emphatically that the future belongs to the youths much more than to 40 or 50 or 60-year-olds.
It is a tragic mistake that they have not contributed to the process whose outcome (new constitution) will serve the very youths who are either reluctant or unwilling to build it up.
It is also very disappointing that the relevant officials have pointed out this deficiency (for it is nothing less) so late in the process.
Youths have obvious areas of interest about which they should have submitted proposals either as individuals or as organised groups. One such area of interest is education. Should it be free and compulsory or not?
Another matter of interest to the youths is whether or not abortion should be allowed in Zimbabwe. If so, on what conditions?
And what about capital punishment?
Yet another issue of much interest to the youths is the affordability and accessibility of passports. Without the youths themselves contributing directly to the present exercise, their interests will go by the board.
Talking about the youths brings us to other relevant groups whose views should be heard before the campaign winds up.
One of them is that of pensioners, especially those more than 70 years old. Should they continue paying rates for their urban properties? Should they be charged by municipal clinics? Should they be charged at all when travelling by train or Air Zimbabwe or Zupco?
Another issue is the legal system used in Zimbabwe, a matter of professional interest to lawyers. I am referring to High Court trials by a judge and two assessors.
Do lawyers not think that trial by jury is much more likely to yield justice than the current system? To me, it appears that since a jury comprises 12 people as compared to only three in the case of a judge and two assessors, the jury is a fairer system.
Yet another organised group whose opinion must be taken very seriously are the churches, on the issue of freedom of worship.
The vast majority of Christian churches should have a constitutional duty to protect their members, particularly children, from communicable diseases.
Church leaders should make sure that freedom of worship does not mean or imply that groups of people may assembly anywhere, anytime without any sanitary facilities whatever, or that any body of water may be used for baptismal purposes without due consideration about its sanitary condition.
Freedom needs to be clearly defined in the new constitution, especially where it concerns the rights of children who have attained the age of majority (18 years).
This is a matter for both the youths and the older people. It is the feeling of most parents, that at 18 years a child is certainly too young to be given full authority over his or her life.
The former age of majority (21) was much more realistic than the present one.
The youths may feel that it is appropriate for one to be declared an adult at 18. However, a cursory look at a couple of high schools shows that most Upper Sixth pupils are either 18 or a few months older.
They are still very much their parents’ or guardians’ responsibilities. That law was enacted when the country had just emerged from a war in which many combatants were in their late teens.
That generation is now in its late 40s and its successors require a new politico-legal environment for the purpose of establishing cultural stability.