By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
17 April 2014
The issue of youth empowerment, which ZANU PF has used in its political campaigns to boost support, appears to be coming back to haunt them as tens of thousands of unemployed young Zimbabweans begin to demand that they fulfill the promises made over the years.
Ahead of the July 2013 elections, ZANU PF promised to create 2.2 million jobs if voted into government. But nothing has been done to address that issue since Mugabe and his party declared a disputed landslide victory over the MDC-T. In fact hundreds more companies have shut done.
The issue is now being debated online by many young Zimbabweans. Writing on the popular Kalabash website, Itai Nyamawuya-Masanga summarized some of the challenges faced by the youth and the lack of action from government.
“Our government ‘youth’ leaders are emblematic of the problem, aged and un-interested, our student leaders are arrested and harassed. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that your interests are in the hearts of those fighting for power,” he wrote.
“It’s mind boggling to realize that most supposed youth organizations are led by elderly people. The ZANU PF secretary for youth in the politburo, Absalom Sikhosana, is 61 years old. The Minister of Youth Francis Nhema, is 55,” Nyamawuya-Masanga added.
Claris Madhuku, director of the Platform for Youth Development, agreed that Zimbabwe’s youth have been “silenced” by their elders, adding that their views are tolerated only if they promote ZANU PF’s political leaders.
“When ZANU PF speaks of youth empowerment they are not really genuine. This was their mantra in the July 2013 elections, but when we look at what is really happening, youth empowerment is still aspirational and not something they have delivered on the ground,” Madhuku told SW Radio Africa.
He added: “In ZANU PF youth is not about age. When you look at those who manage youth issues like the youth minister is about 55 years old. So for us they just look at young people more like kids who are supposed to be given instructions in terms of what they should be doing.”
Madhuku agreed with Nyamawuya-Masanga’s observation that many young Zimbabweans are dropping out of school to join their parents in making money for the family because school fees are so high. They are dropping out with minimal education and thereby limiting their chances of a good future.
Young girls are getting married to elderly men to escape poverty or abuse at home and are being subjected to “oppressive religious and/or cultural practices” without any room to question important decisions that impact on their lives.
To inspire young Zimbabweans, Nyamawuya-Masanga quoted Bob Marley’s famous “None but ourselves can free our minds” lyric as well as the radical American activist Malcom X, who said “Do for thyself.”