We are “Born free but always in chains” : Lupane Youths.

Another day in the Matabeleland North Provincial Capital of Lupane has just taught me that “freedom” is just as much an overstated word as “Love”. How often do we hear people abuse the word love or the phrase “I love you” for selfish gain? Today I learnt that being free does not necessarily mean that one is outside prison. In as much as our parents and grand parents didn’t feel free during the colonial era and yet they of course were not all locked up in prison cells.
It reminds me of one of the late legend Lucky Dube’s songs “Born free but always in chains” and well known local playwright Raisdon Baya’s work of theatrical art called “Everyday Prisoners”. Just like some mental experts will tell you we are all abnormal in our small little way, we are also prisoners in one form or another. Youths in Lupane and all over Zimbabwe are prisoners of a destiny that only a new constitution can reshape.
Presenting on a topic called “Youths and the Systems of Governance in the New Constitution”, Lupane based civic activist David Nyathi painted a sad but real picture of the typical young person one will encounter in Lupane. He said, apart from the young person that has left Lupane for other towns and cities, countries or continents to seek a better life, “The average young person you will meet in Lupane today represents one of the saddest you will meet anywhere else in Zimbabwe. S/he is a young person who is lucky to have reached and completed their O’levels, they are even luckier if they make it to A’ level.
S/he is unskilled and unemployed, s/he is of no fixed aboard and depends on donor assistance for food and clothing. S/he is victim to all kinds of inexplicable illnesses and has little or no access to treatment. S/he cannot openly or proudly tell you where or how s/he gets the little money s/he spends daily. S/he is an orphan taking care of little brothers and sisters. S/he owns no birth certificate or identity document. S/he will marry and have children by age 17 and be too much of a drinker by age 15 with less opportunities and very little hope for the future”
What makes Nyathi’s account even sadder is the fact that Lupane is a province rich in timber and under going immense growth through the construction of a dam, university and a brand new government complex. However all these positives are hardly benefitting the locals of Lupane let alone its young people. For starters, the timber that is grown in Lupane is harvested by outside companies who hire outside labour to harvest and process it outside of Lupane. When the timber is turned into furniture Lupane locals have benefitted nothing from it and cannot even afford to buy the furniture that it produces.
The same tale is told of the construction of the dam, university and government complexes. The construction companies involved are from nowhere near Lupane, the labourers are not from Lupane and cannot even communicate well with the Lupane locals. The programmes that have started enrolling students to Lupane State University are based in Bulawayo making it difficult for Lupane locals to presently benefit from the institution’s courses.
What then can be said about the local leadership that has sat back and watched this bias takes place unabated? According to local councilor Mr Kane Kine Mpofu, their efforts have been thwarted by centralization of government.
“We cannot do this alone. Just last week I personally arrested some criminals at the dam site and handed them over the police. If young people like you do not help us to bring about the change then our efforts are futile. We need to change the way our government operates and that can only take place through a new people driven constitution and that can only come about if you participate fully. We need to call for the devolution of power so that all our leaders can be accountable to us not to central government” said Mpofu.
Mpofu is one of the youngest councilors in the Kusile district rural council, and he laments the lack of youth action in Lupane despite the existence of over three youth civic society organizations in the area.
“ We long for a vibrant youth movement that will speak on our behalf and represent us like NYDT has been doing for the last six or so months. We need our own youth council like the Bulawayo youth council. Maybe we can call in the Kusile rural youth council.” added a young person from the gallery.
Early on in the programme the BYC chairman had introduced the BYC concept to the Lupane youths explaining that it was not meant to take power from the main councilors but was instead a move to synergise youth aspirations with local governance work.
Consequently, the parliamentary select committee will visit places like Lupane soon to discuss what their wishes are for the new constitution. Lupane youths have said they want devolution of power so that they can control their own resources and determine the pace of their town’s development. Honestly what can be said of a major timber production town that has more bottle stores than shops and not even one furniture shop or that many carpentry workshops for that matter? Someone up there just does not care, and it is time for young people to make sure that they take part in this constitution making process which will force leaders to care and be accountable to their constituents. Let us change the meaning of being “born free” now, once and for all generations to come.


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