By Farai Matiashe
YOUTHS from the region have slammed Sadc and the African Union (AU) for protecting “criminals” in power and failing to incorporate youths in their various programmes.
Addressing a youth regional conference organised by Youth Forum in Harare yesterday, Southern Africa Student Union secretary-general Maxwell Dhlamini said there was need for transformation in the African bodies to allow youth participation in socio-economic activities.
“Sadc and AU are clubs of criminals who protect each other during elections. When elections are rigged, they back up ruling parties,” he said.
“It is time for youths to rise up and come up with an official grouping. They should start putting pressure on these bodies.”
Dhlamini said efforts which were being made by the AU and Sadc to embrace youths were not enough because they were leaving out other sections of youths.
Youth Forum director Ashton Bumhira said it was regrettable that there had been notable gaps and disregard of the youth voice for too long, hence there was need to bridge the existing gap in youth civic engagement and participation.
“The lack of formal youth organisational structures at regional level has somewhat curtailed our effectiveness in the fulfilment of our mandate as youths,” he said.
Going forward, a consolidated youth regional network would be established to collaborate and further the young people’s cause at continental level, Bumhira said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition acting chairperson Tichaona Masiyambiri said Africa, and southern Africa in particular, was dominated by the youth demographic dividend and it was upon youths to take charge of their own socio-economic and political development.
Dhlamini, who is from Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), made repeated calls for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to engage MDC leader Nelson Chamisa to solve the prevailing socio-economic and political crisis.
He said Zimbabweans had been suffering for more than two decades and the only way sanctions could be lifted by the Western countries was to dialogue and deal with the legitimacy issue.
“We are not saying this because we are undermining the authority of Mnangagwa, but the truth is sanctions, without dialogue, are not going away. Zimbabweans have suffered for over 20 years now. Twenty years in poverty and social injustice. Those living in the diaspora need to come back home,” Dhlamini said.
He said the government should refrain from State-sponsored harassment of activists.
Hlangula Community Organisation leader Nangamso Kwinana, from South Africa, told NewsDay on the sidelines of the forum that conversation and understanding was at the centre of resolving the socio-economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe.
“It starts with a conversation. What extent was the rigging? Leaders should come together and engage,” she said.
“Communication is vital as it enables them to realise what are stumbling blocks. It all starts by listening and being tolerant.”