Violent clashes break up government youth summit
By Violet Gonda
9 April 2009
Violent clashes broke out between ZANU PF and MDC supporters at a youth summit, organised by the Ministry of Youth Development , Indigenisation and Empowerment - in the presence of the ZANU PF Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and his MDC Deputy Tamsanqa Mahlangu.
Kasukuwere had convened the conference on Wednesday at the Rainbow Towers that drew around 100 youths from ZANU PF and the MDC, as well as members of the National Youth Council and civil society youth organisations.
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa attended the opening stages of the meeting. The discussion had been organised to begin a debate over a number of issues, such as youth empowerment, the national healing and reconciliation process, the national youth programme (Border Gezi training centres), youth with disabilities, plus education and employment opportunities.
But according to delegates problems erupted during the feedback stage of the conference, over the sensitive issue of national healing and reconciliation.
MDC activists and youths from civil society had very different ideas from their ZANU PF counterparts on what should happen to the perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Courage Ngwarai, the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union legal affairs secretary said while youths from the MDC and civil society said it was not possible for people to just forgive without truth telling and justice, those from ZANU PF wanted a blanket amnesty for those who committed crimes dating from 1980.
The youths named service chiefs such as Air Marshall Perence Shiri, Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, among the people who should resign from their posts. They also said that an independent body should look into the issue of reconciliation and national healing, to avoid political interference. But the ZANU PF youth, guilty of most of the violence, not surprisingly think people should just move on and forgive each other.
The debate became violent, leading to clashes and the destruction of hotel property in the presence of Minister Kasukuwere, his Deputy and Patrick Zhuwawo, the ZANU PF National Director of Youth.
The ZINASU legal affairs secretary alleges the clashes were started by the ZANU PF youths who started throwing water glasses at their President Clever Bere. This angered his colleagues and fists fights began. Ngwarai said a sizeable amount of hotel property was damaged during the fracas. Ngwarai alleges that Minister Kasukuwere never left his seat and just watched during the time the youths were exchanging blows.
Another delegate said the primary objective was to have youths from different political and ideological affiliations discuss and deliberate on issues affecting them and to come up with a paper to inform the national youth policy framework of the transitional government. But as a result of the violence most youth groups representing the more progressive forces pulled out of the summit and were not present on the second day on Thursday.
ZINASU said: “We see it as a ploy by ZANU PF to rubber stamp a process which is not morally upright. As of now we did not reach any agreement with the ZANU PF National Youth Council and the government and this is a major blow for the transitional authority, because it seems as if the people from ZANU PF are not in the spirit of making this GNU work.”