2011 NYDT Annual Youth Convention a Success

On the 8th and 9th  April, all roads led to Raylton Club in Bulawayo  where NYDT held its 2011 edition of the Annual Youth Convention, with overwhelming support and attendance from over 500 young people, civil society organizations and local leaders from in and around the Bulawayo and Matabeleland regions. The theme for this year was    ‘Promoting a democratic transition: Youth participate now!’ and drew delegates from as far as Binga, Beitbridge, Harare, Nkayi, Lupane, Gwanda, Tsholotsho amongst other areas. Over the two days, the convention was turned into a ‘marketplace of ideas’ that sought to locate NYDT and youths within the broader scheme of the socio-political and economic transition that Zimbabwe is currently undergoing.

These are highlights of some of the major issues that came up during the meeting:

National Healing: National Healing in Zimbabwe; The Role of the Youth

The session was led by Dumisani Nkomo, the Chief Executive Officer of Habakkuk Trust who stressed on the need for meaningful participation from young people, not just as a “save face” strategy from politicians. Nkomo stated that the role of young people in the national healing process is to first identify the wounds inflicted. He added that there have to be structures and policies that give rights and abilities to youths to express their needs economically, politically, culturally and socially.

‘As long as people’s rights are not recognized, as long as the Organ on National Healing Reconciliation and  Integration (ONHRI) remains a public relations body with no legal power to hold perpetrators to account for past injustices, then healing at a national or even local level will remain a pipe dream,’ he concluded.

During this session, young people questioned how reconciliation would take place and what substance it was meant to have to them when perpetrators have not come clean. They also questioned the role of the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI)  sighting that it had no practical initiatives being implemented in the communities.  Youths called for an audit of ONHRI activities which they said demanded much from state coffers with little success to show for it. NYDT is currently running Peace Building and Conflict resolution workshops in various parts of Matabeleland in a bid to have youths engage each other in peaceful means. Peace Sports and Arts festivals have also been held in Gwanda, Bulawayo and some are billed for other provinces in order to teach youths other means of dealing with conflict issues.

Elections: Role of youths in Elections

The session on Zimbabwe’s impending general elections and mobilization for meaningful youth participation was tackled by former student leaders and civic activists,  Mfundo Mlilo and Promise Mkhwananzi as presenter and discussant respectively.  Both reiterated the ardent need for full and active participation of young men and women in national processes.

Mkwananzi pointed out that the problem is not the elections but smooth transfer of power. He admired Zimbabweans for their peaceful and loving nature and stated that Youths were being coerced through force, violence and other means into taking part in politically motivated violence. He urged youths to remain resolute in their quest for change adding that their role is to be peace makers but this doesn’t mean docility. ’Change is good and we yearn for it even if it’s just for the sack of change. Our role as youths is to be a part of the elections and defend the vote.’ He said.

Mlilo highlighted that young people’s participation would be limited by the fact that many youths are not registered to vote mainly because many of them were failing to acquire national identity documents and even birth certificates. He encouraged organizations like NYDT to do something to address this anomaly before the next elections. Participants and speakers all complained that their efforts to participate in nation building processes were being thwarted by state security agents who were scaring them away from meetings and at times threatening them if they take part in any civic gatherings.

In this session, youths called on the media to report objectively on the election process sighting that there was a lot of propaganda being churned out through available media outlets.  The called for a clean up and updating of the voters roll, as many youths have so far been turned away from registering due to what has been sighted as politically motivated reasons. It was also highlighted that some youths are failing to get national registration documents like birth-certificates and national identity documents, thereby limiting their effective participation in important national processes.

Youths and socio-economic rights

Rodrick Fayayo, the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) Coordinator and Butholezwe Nyathi, the NYDT Convention chairperson led session on socio-economic rights and empowerment in relation to young people. Fayayo stressed that Zimbabwe has a lot of financial sources but most of the profits were working to the advantage of political parties like ZANU PF and hardly for the benefit of young people and their needs. He advised the young people to shun their passivity, claim their space and demand economic empowerment in all possible ways. In the plenary session, Youths called on NYDT to incorporate funding initiatives in its mandate to assist them in self help projects they were trying to initiate in their communities. They sighted that without financial empowerment, it would be hard for them to be involved in other development processes.

Nyathi called for legislative reform which would bind all youth programs to high and professional standards unlike the current legislative framework that is liable to abuse for partisan interests. He pointed out that the lack of employment for youths was affecting youth involvement in developing the country and called on government to establish measures to ensure that the youth fund is transparently administrated. Currently the youth fund in Zimbabwe is administered by interested banks that charge commercial interest rates and demand collateral much to the disadvantage of many young people. Nyathi also encouraged youths to start self help projects which would help them financially and in the long term allow them to contribute to the economic development of the country.

Young people questioned the role of the youth ministry arguing that the Minister was not being held accountable by the youths he is supposed to be leading. They called for more platforms of debate and dialogue from which to advocate for alternative policy considerations. Youths also bemoaned the relocation of a number of companies to Harare leaving many already desperate youths unemployed in Bulawayo.

The convention wrapped up its business in the late afternoon of 9 April, with young people pledging to pay better attention and take active part in broader civic activities while calling on NYDT to continue giving youths a voice on the road to Zimbabwe’s transformation.

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