Government speaks of youth empowerment and has set up a Zimbabwe Youth Council tasked with championing the cause but the majority of youths remain marginalized.
Elders in our communities have maintained a sustained attack and abuse of youth rights. Despite government’s cap on school fees, the fees remain relatively high for the majority of parents who have suspended the kids’ education and incorporated them into their struggling businesses or trades for survival e.g. vending, gold panning, basket weaving, etc. just to make ends meet. In the end, the youths are dropping out of school equipped with minimal education with their dreams for a better life shattered for good.
Research and Advocacy Unit, RAU recently published a research article on early marriages, “Let Them Grow First: Early Marriage in Goromonzi, Zimbabwe.” In the article, RAU found out that most girls went into early marriages to escape poverty (by getting married to an aged pauper), and some to escape mistreatment at home. RAU also highlighted that elders stick on oppressive religious and/or cultural practices that make the youth especially girls subjects to the elders with no room to question even important decisions that affect them for the rest of their lives. In the event, the very elders who are supposed to guide and protect us (youths) have become the slave masters out to suppress and arrest our rights and freedoms.
Zimbabwe’s young view words like ‘youth’ and ‘empowerment’ with scorn. No young person wants to be identified as a youth as the word carries political connotations. The only youths who delight in the tag are the ZANU PF/MDC aligned young. Youth have become disillusioned that being in the political youth wing means being used to carry out the most rogue acts for the elders. The young understand the word ‘empowerment’ as referring to getting ‘left overs’ when the big wigs have taken as much as they want. Youth Forum found out that of the $10 million CABS Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund, latest statistics revealed that 2,388 youths benefitted after the disbursement of $3,594,920 for the period 2012-2013. If a national program for a nation of more than 6million youths, only 2,388 benefit, it is a total failure.
Its mind boggling to realize that most supposed youth organizations are led by elderly people. The ZANU PF secretary for the youth in the politburo Absalom Sikhosana is 61 years old. The youth minister Francis Nhema is 55. The Zimbabwe Youth Council chairperson is appointed by the Minister after consultation with the President and in accordance with any directions, the President may give him. The organization chair is therefore a proxy or puppet of government. Instead of taking his stand in defense of the youth, the chair stands to defend government. The chairperson is no different from the school prefect who derived authority from the principal and worked tirelessly to expose and demean his peers. The ZYC is a mockery to the youth.
Government continues to arrest youth’s rights by arresting student youth leaders. Police recently arrested 47 Bindura University students, on allegations that they held an illegal meeting. As SRC elections approach in most tertiary institutions, the battle between the students’ movements ZINASU and a ZANU proxy ZICOSU turns ugly. Government uses this time to arrest, torture and abuse the youth leaders in an effort to silence them. This is despite calls on youth empowerment. It turns out that the empowerment that government envisages is in sharp contrasts to the empowerment that we the youth want. The elders want to create and sustain a youth empowerment model that makes zombies out of us. Their so-called empowerment is a way for them to meddle into our affairs, scuttle our progress, and derail our movement towards real empowerment.
The recent ‘sacking’ of MDC-T secretary general of the youth assembly Promise Mkwananzi is evidence that the elders regardless of political affiliation, have no genuine interest in empowering the youth. Instead, to the elders, a youth is only as good as his/her blind loyalty. It is only the youth that pay blind allegiance to their leaders (Nelson Chamisa) that get to walk on the red carpet.
In conclusion, I spell it out to you fellow comrades, that our elders will never sacrifice themselves for our sake. They do what they do for themselves. It is time we move from being passive grumblers who agonizingly watch as our future is destroyed and transform into pro-active individuals and rebuild our communities based upon our values. It is time we end the hero (Mugabe or Tsvangirai) worship and begin to see the heroes within ourselves. As Bob Marley would put it, “None but ourselves can free our minds” or taking from Malcom X, “Do for thyself.”