YOUTH CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATES, A RESOUNDING SUCCESS

NYDT together with its partners Bulawayo Agenda and the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) have completed the first round of the Youth Constitutional Debates series. The exercise which is aimed at equipping youths with information on the process of the drafting of a new constitution as well as on how they can effectively take part in this process started two weeks ago in the Mpumelelo area of Nkayi district and went to 12 districts rounding off in the Daluka area of Lupane.
According to the projects implementing team, the outreach programme was a great success as it managed to attract well over 800 young people, with an average of 60 participants at each meeting. The theme for these debates was “Youths Participate Now, Make your Voice Count”. While a good number of young people proved that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in terms raising awareness on the constitutional reform process, all expressed a need for a constitution that respects human rights, rule of law and different cultural and historical backgrounds.
These are some of the concerns raised by Young people in Matabeleland on the New Constitution making process in Zimbabwe:
• Nothing has been done to educate rural youths on the constitution as many of them didn’t even know what a constitution is.

• Participants expressed dissatisfaction with the dissemination of information on the whole constitution making process and explained that there was a need for members of the parliamentary select committee to visit, for instance Binga, to explain the processes and give progress updates.

• Youths expressed ignorance on the various committees that will visit their areas for consultations. The information on the processes that had taken place and those that were still outstanding had not been relayed to the youths in particular and the villagers in general.

• There is need to translate all documents relevant to the constitution making process including the current constitution to local languages for better appreciation and understanding by the rural youths. For instance in Binga most youths speak Tonga and do not understand English and yet should participate in the discourse and make their contributions.

• The youth sighted the farming season as a possible factor that might fail most rural Zimbabweans to participate during the thematic committees’ consultations

• Youths in Binga indicated that their areas were not developed because of the
centralization of power. For fundamental needs like birth certificate, passports to be processed quickly, they needed to either go to Bulawayo or Harare. Devolution of authority and power would allow villagers to access these necessities easily and closely

• The youths expressed displeasure at the imposition of languages and hoped that all languages would be treated as equals without being labeled as minorities. They needed to be taught their mother languages at school as a way of enhancing and promoting their cultural values.

• Youths also expressed dissatisfaction with the use of local resources. For instance the youths in Lupane and Tsholotsho were agitated by the abuse of their resources by ‘foreigners’. They argued that the Timber that is vast in these areas has never benefited them in any way. They highlighted that these could be used to create jobs for the youths and develop these areas. Against that background they preferred a system of governance that would allow them to control and use their resources to develop Lupane and Tsholotsho.

• The villagers in Lower Gwelo, Sogwala area indicated that they would prefer a constitution that clearly articulates the roles and functions of the chiefs in the community. This emanated from the role that has been played by these traditional leaders in inciting violence. Some chiefs have been abused by political leaders. Their roles are changed at intervals to suite the political situation. There is therefore confusion between the traditional leaders, appointed leaders and the civil servants.

• In Gwanda the youths complained that they were tired of the propaganda emanating from the public media. They indicated that the current state of the media was a cause for concern as it promoted polarization and hatred amongst Zimbabweans. There was therefore a need for the constitution to provide checks and balances. Suggestions varied from the self regulation of journalists and putting up a board to oversee the operations of the public media.

• Participants highlighted that there was a need for the president to have a limited term of office for example two terms like in other countries rather than having a president who would rule for too long.

• They demand a gender fair constitution where men and women are treated equally

• Participants also explored the challenges faced by the girl child. These challenges were characterized as legal, cultural and societal. The crisis in Zimbabwe has manifested itself largely through the girl child who has had to leave school, act as heads of families and is always sacrificed. At work women are also segregated and exposed to harsh treatment. There is therefore a need for mechanisms to make sure that they are legal instruments that enhance the participation of women and mainstreaming of gender in the activities of all ministries.

• Youths hinted that the land distribution process was a cluttered process that led to the transfer of Land from the white commercial farmers to the black elites. Besides the fact that some people own more than one farm, people who were supposed to get first preference, the locals, did not benefit as corruption and nepotism carried the day hence there was a need to draw up a constitution that will make sure that all these disparities are addressed and beneficiaries of any initiatives are locals than foreigners.

• Participants expressed the feeling that the new constitution should decisively deal with the compensation of War Veterans. The whole nation should appreciate their role in freeing the country. Because there was no clear and laid down procedure of compensating war veterans, they were surviving on the goodwill of some politicians who only remembered them when its time to fight political battles. They said once this group is taken care of economically, no one can abuse them.

It is expected that these debates will make another round in different parts of the country, to give even more insight into the expectations of young people in the new constitution making process in Zimbabwe.

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