OPPOSITION parties and political analysts yesterday expressed fears of a bloody 2018 election campaign, after President Robert Mugabe’s call for the re-introduction of the dreaded National Youth Service (NYS) programme.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe told party supporters at his 93rd birthday celebrations in Matabeleland South’s Matobo district at the weekend that government needed to re-introduce the programme, whose graduates are derisively referred to as the “Green Bombers”.
The NYS graduates reportedly unleashed a reign of terror on opposition activists in the 2008 run-off elections that reportedly left over 300 opposition activists dead and dozens missing.
Opposition MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said Mugabe’s call is not surprising.
“These young thugs are the storm troopers of the Zanu PF regime. They are the modern-day equivalent of Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo. The whole idea is to intimidate and unleash violence on the innocent and toiling masses of Zimbabwe, particularly in rural areas. When Mugabe once boasted that he has got degrees in violence, he wasn’t joking. He was damn serious,” Gutu said.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume described Mugabe’s NYS programme as a “watered down version” of the infamous Fifth Brigade blamed for the death of over 20 000 civilians in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions in the early 1980s. The massacres are commonly referred to as Gukurahundi.
“This is a murderous programme in which youths are indoctrinated to be violent and abusive. It is a watered down version of the Fifth Brigade targeting the whole country. People will be beaten, killed and abused by those youths.
Mugabe only learns lessons to repeat violence and retain power,” he said.
MDC spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi said: “His (Mugabe’s) intention is to turn the jobless youths into dogs of war.
It is an evil and very sad intention by the Zanu PF leader. The national youth service is a very noble idea in other countries but has been given a different meaning by Zanu PF in Zimbabwe.
“We cannot allow this perennial abuse of the country’s most productive demographic group by a regime that is convinced of its exit in 2018. The news rekindles sad memories of a gory past, but it will not shift the winds of change.”
Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZimFP) party challenged Mugabe to invest in infrastructure development and job creation instead of creating “merchants of violence”.
“What we do not need are people investing in militias, in merchants of violence in order to win elections. The government should get its priorities right and put the interests of the people first,” ZimpF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire said.
Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya said, with the government struggling to pay civil servants salaries, the NYS would likely present fresh headaches for Treasury.
“If anything they (Green Bombers) have been associated with unlawful and illicit activities.
“I do not think there is budgetary space to fund this kind of programme at a time government is failing to honour its basic obligations to its current workforce. From a public management point of view, there is no reason to reintroduce the national youth service,” he said.