“We are afraid and discouraged from taking part in civic society meetings” – Plumtree Youths

A  youth think tank meeting organised by NYDT in Plumtree to discuss Zimbabwe’s next elections revealed that many youths in the area are afraid and discouraged by non-governmental organizations in the town, from taking part in what was called ‘politically inclined meetings.’

NYDT is holding a series of youth, meetings in Matabeleland North, South and Bulawayo to gather young people’s views on what they think must be done before Zimbabwe’s next general elections. Participants cited the fact that anything to do with governance and participatory democracy was viewed as a challenge to the status quo and likely to attract trouble for them. As such even youth organisations in the town were telling youths to stay away from such meetings.

Youths engaging each other

Despite the low turnout, the young people managed to have insightful discussions on the topic ‘Zimbabwe’s impending elections: A youth’s perspective’ stating that no free and fair elections could be held without electoral, institutional and security sector reforms, robust registration of youths among other crucial needs. They expressed fear of violence if the elections were held under the current circumstances. They also sighted violence as the biggest factor that has led to them shunning any electoral processes. This comes at a time when the political parties in the inclusive government are, under the supervision of SADC are negotiating a road-map for credible elections in Zimbabwe. Youths also urged robustness and firmness among human rights activists as the partisan security agents are likely to crack down on activists.

Enhancing youth participation through dialogue

The young people bemoaned the fact that there were very few organisations willing to include them in national discussions and debates. “In Plumtree, if you do not have connections or relatives in political parties or in influential community leadership positions, you’ll never get to know what is happening politically around the country’, said a young man adding that youths had been excluded from actively participating in the constitution making process because information was hardly available to them.

Young people urged NYDT to set up a Plumtree Youth Council in the mould of the Bulawayo and Lupane Youth Councils, stating that this may be the only way of actively involving them in community development and governance issues.

Plumtree is one of the busiest border towns in Zimbabwe linking the country to Botswana. However underdevelopment, unemployment and a lack of active participation from young people in particular and citizens in general has lead to many crossing the border to seek jobs and other opportunities in Botswana.

More youth meetings are billed for Gwanda at the Gwanda Hotel and Bulawayo at Magwegwe Hall to discuss the same topic “Zimbabwe’s impending elections: A Youth’s perspective” as a way of preparing youths for the next elections. NYDT will continue to create platforms, disseminate information and advocate for an enabling environment for enhanced youth participation in governance at local and national levels.

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