As everyone is making noise about the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe vis-à-vis the youth bulge, members of Youth for Innovation Trust took to defining the roles of young people in the entire electoral cycle. In a dialogue session held during YIT’s Sunday Growth Talk, it was noted that beyond the definitions young people are already playing a huge part within the electoral cycle since they make the majority of the population and the majority of registered voters.
Throughout the BVR registration process and even the voters’ roll inspection exercise, youth in civil society have been very instrumental in ensuring that they raise awareness and impart knowledge on processes. The dialogue also touched on the electoral cycle, acknowledging that it is a continuous process with no fixed starting or ending points and is divided into three main periods, the pre-electoral period, the electoral period and the post-electoral period.
Within the year 2018’s electoral period, there has been a rise of youth involvement in politics as leaders and mobilizers. This period has also been coupled with a lot of violence by young people especially looking at the primary elections that were held recently by different political parties. Though physical and structural violence was noted and recorded, a rise in cyber bullying has been seen and young people have played a pivotal role in pushing hate speech and propaganda through social media.
Skhangele Ngwenya, the Director of Young Women’s Alliance explained; “Young people are aware of their role as peacekeepers especially in urban areas though social media and they have been raising awareness on the importance of participation in civic engagement regardless of their political backgrounds.” She noted that young people are tired of baseless promises; this has created a sense of uncertainness in the political atmosphere.
In a bid to change the youth narrative in politics, a renowned youth leader Thubelihle Mafu working with WILD said that it is important for young people to set their own agenda and guard against abuse by seasoned politicians. Youth wings in political parties often derail young people from mainstream party leadership and because of high rates of poverty and unemployment; young people often get comfortable with the little that they get.
Electoral corruption and violence have been seen as leading forms of misconduct that are leading to youth apathy. Young people need healing to guard against violence, as well as education on the electoral cycle. It was also noted that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission does not have youthful commissioners meaning that young people still need to work twice as hard for representation in decision making.
Ishmael Mkandla, a youth leader working with CITE emphasised, “Young people should not expect to find positions waiting for them to take up; they should work hard and earn them. They are the majority and have the potential to influence the electoral outcome.” Though there are still closed spaces, it is a matter of pushing hard for youth involvement.
As the elderly are living large in their Chimurenga legacy, young people are also currently facing a war of their own to regain upright livelihoods. Learning from young people like Hector Peterson, young people should gain courage to face the music. Different ideologies, political standings and economic statuses have divided young people and for the fight for youthful processes to be successful, there is need for unity of purpose. Young people need to step up to the challenge and be actively involved in national processes.
Wrapping up, Youth for Innovation Trust committed to ensuring meaningful youth participation in the remainder of the 2018 electoral process through facilitating voter education sessions and observing and reporting on elections among other actions.