Winning is an art, hence logically and invariably you need to participate so that you can win! Participation is an important variable in the democracy discourse and it is essential to locate youth in this mantra.
Report By X1G
Youth are faced with multi-faceted challenges relating to both electoral and political participation in Zimbabwe. The challenges emanate from the lack of unity of purpose and a poor cardinal direction in terms of what youth seek to achieve in the country’s developmental matrix.
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Mostly youth cry foul and portray themselves as victims of political exclusion an assertion which can be validated with supporting arguments for and against.
This discussion acknowledges that youth bear the brunt of socio-economic and political exclusion and hinges to apportion blame to other societal stakeholders who deny youth the opportunity and space to freely participate.
On the other hand it would be imprudent to wholly blame the system and institutions as impediments for youth participation.
Youth themselves have a responsibility to engage in such important processes like registering as voters, taking part in the actual voting process and more importantly standing as candidates. Often, youth choose the contrary.
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The Inclusive Government is approaching its twilight, having agreed on the draft constitution leading to the constitutional referendum held on the 16 of March 2013.
The adopted draft, was adopted and it is now at the bill stage. This clearly, sets a trajectory towards the conclusion of the beleaguered Unity Government.
The three main political parties in government Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-N) and Zimbabwe National African Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) seem to agree that the only way to move forward is through the holding of harmonised elections, however there still uncertainty on the as the potential date.
This then takes the discussion to the next level, to say what then for young people? In a society like Zimbabwe, opportunities are infinite.
The constitutional referendum was an opportunity for young people to be part of the electoral process. However it is noted that young people didn’t come out in their large numbers to vote.
The impending harmonised elections present an opportunity for youth to amend their past failings. It would be an error of omission if this discussion does not touch on the opportunities which the new charter will present to young people in Zimbabwe.
More importantly the new charter will enfranchises new voters by expanding the eligibility of how one qualifies to be citizen of Zimbabwe. Section 35 Subsection 1 of the draft chapter state that, “Persons are Zimbabwean citizens by birth, descent or registration”.
This has already been confirmed by the cabinet directive to the registrar, to allow those deemed aliens to swap the old IDs with new ones, subsequently facilitating their registration. This is a victory for Zimbabwean youth who were deemed aliens and were not eligible to register as voters.
An election presents to young people an opportunity to register as voters and take part in the actual voting process and more importantly as voters and as candidates.
For the avoidance of doubt if you are a young person of 18 years and above you are eligible to register as a voter. Secondly you are by law eligible to contest as a parliamentarian if you are 21 years and above and you are also eligible to stand as councillors.
The only limitation to stand as a candidate is for the senate and presidential race which requires one to be 40 years and above, however as long as you are 18 years and registered as a voter you have an opportunity to elect representatives of your own preferences in the aforementioned categories. The ability to vote or exercise the right to vote is based on political willingness among youth and it is their responsibility.
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There is great strength in numbers; since youth between 18 and 35 years constitute a significant proportion of the total Zimbabwean populace, why not take advantage of this self-endowment. Youth involvement in electoral process is not limited to voting and standing as candidates alone.
Youth are reservoirs of positive energy hence campaigning and activism quickly strikes when the word youth is mentioned.
This poses a new challenge associated with youth participation which is violence. Violence is cancerous in the Zimbabwean political system, and some youth are found on the wrong “side of town”.
Youth are going to be clear winners when they chide elements, agents and principals of violence. Instead of perpetuating the exploitive system of violence youth should opt to peacefully campaign as candidates or for candidates of their own choice.
The youth vote is becoming phenomenal as witnessed by the 2008 and 2012 United States of America Presidential Elections. Political parties cannot afford to ignore you, so why not lay terms of engagement?
Zimbabwean youth should participate in electoral processes at their own accord and as a reminder you can only achieve this when you capitalise your strength in numbers. On this note, firstly youth are challenged to participate in primary elections within their respective political formations.
Secondly youth are challenged to register as voters in huge numbers and be part of the next generation of first time voters and achieve the feet of winners!!!