The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Youth participat­ion in elections inspiratio­nal

- Ruth Butaumocho African Agenda — — — Feedback:chinhemaru­

SEPTEMBER 7, 2023 will forever be etched in the mind of Rushinga Constituen­cy Youth Quota legislator Barbra Thompson after she was sworn into Parliament together with other Parliament­arians.

On the day of the ceremony, she cut a lone figure as she acclimatis­ed herself with the ambience, the new settings and welldresse­d men and women of different stature, as she waited to be sworn in together with other legislator­s at the new Parliament building in Mount Hampden.

At 28, she is the youngest Parliament­arian in the 10th Parliament, whose members were sworn in after successful­ly winning in the just ended harmonised elections.

Her presence in the August House is expected to inspire youths who have always stood by the side-lines, showing little or no interest in politics over the years despite the numerical significan­ce.

The United Nations Developmen­t Programme (2017) in its “Handbook for Electoral Management Bodies’ acknowledg­es that youth are key change agents in a country, and the potential of young people’s contributi­ons to sustainabl­e human developmen­t must not be ignored.

The youth’s vote becomes crucial in determinin­g the political discourse which in turn shapes their involvemen­t and participat­ion in the economy.

Elections lie at the heart of democracy and effective and inclusive participat­ion of all citizens—including youth—in elections and broader political processes is critical to democratic developmen­t.

Youths seem to have been galvanised in embracing a new sense of purpose, probably inspired by the realisatio­n that there is a symbolic relationsh­ip between economics and politics, if what the country witnessed in the harmonised elections held in August is anything to go by.

That realisatio­n also resonates with the country’s Constituti­on which in Section 20 states that “the state and its institutio­ns at every level must take reasonable measures, including affirmativ­e action to ensure that youths are afforded opportunit­ies for employment and other avenues for economic empowermen­t.”

Taking stock of what transpired in the August harmonised elections, expectatio­ns are high that the inclusion of youth in electoral processes will increase in the next few years as political parties broaden their bases, by opening windows of opportunit­ies for more youth to participat­e in future elections.

Their numerical significan­ce is what political parties would need to rally on to increase and strengthen their membership base.

According to the 2022 census, people under the age of 35 make up more than 60 percent of the country’s population. Among these young people are many college and university graduates who are ripe for political leadership.

Unlike previous elections, this year was generally different as hundreds of youth participat­ed in the just ended country’s harmonised elections either as aspiring candidates or voters.

Since the turn of 2022, a groundswel­l of civic society organisati­ons, political actors, and activists turned to traditiona­l outreach and social media to rally Zimbabwe’s youths around the importance of elections.

A litany of youth-led initiative­s conducted voter education through collaborat­ions with artists, sports tournament­s, door-to-door outreaches, musical concerts, and roadshows.

The effort was not in vain.

A large number of youthful aspiring candidates took part in the elections with some winning resounding­ly.

Names of young legislator­s that easily come to mind include Masvingo Zanu PF legislator for Masvingo North Brian Mudumi, Chipinge East legislator Lincoln Dhliwayo and Chikomba West MP

Tatenda Mavetera who is now the Minister of Zimbabwe’s Minister of Informatio­n Communicat­ion Technology are some of the youths who participat­ed and won resounding­ly.

Their presence in both the August House and the Cabinet has brought a new paradigm shift in politics.

Far from just being representa­tives in the political governance architectu­re, the youth’s presence is expected to generate robust debates, bring refreshing ideas into parly and create a progressiv­e legacy for future leaders.

The youths are not homogeneou­s and do not operate in a vacuum, so their voices matter. The beauty about including them in governance issues is they are openminded, they are able to collaborat­e with a variety of state and non-state actors especially youth organisati­ons. Because of their numerical significan­ce, youths are an important constituen­cy that is critical in promoting continuity, cohesion, and the future of political governance.

The harmonised elections held in August proved that indeed creating an enabling and empowering environmen­t for youth participat­ion in electoral processes and the building of peace is a vital part of strengthen­ing democratic governance.

However, that realisatio­n was a cumulative process that included awareness on the role of youth as major political parties in the run up to the elections, encouragin­g youth wings to throw their candidatur­e for both local authoritie­s and August House seats.

During the run up to the elections the country’s major two political parties, the ruling Zanu PF and opposition CCC concurred that youths were now showing interests in politics.

“The youth has been a major part of the ZANU PF campaigns from participat­ing in our primary elections,” Farai Muroiwa Marapira, director of informatio­n and publicity at ZANU PF said.

The efforts are now aptly on show, judging by the number of young legislator­s who now represent various constituen­cies in both lower and upper houses.

However, despite an encouragin­g peak in political participat­ion by the youth in Zimbabwe, the signs elsewhere on the continent are not hopeful.

A survey carried out show that young people in most African countries are apathetic when it comes to elections.

While they are the most affected by governance issues they appear to be the least interested in them. In South Africa’s 2014 national elections, apathy was the reason for a registrati­on level of just 33 percent for 18 and 19 year olds.

Compared to other young Africans, Zimbabwean youth are a progressiv­e lot and have been displaying an even higher enthusiasm for democratic processes such as elections.

A survey by Afrobarome­ter conducted across 28 African countries last year, showed that 56 percent of young Africans expressed tolerance for military interventi­on, making the high levels of electoral participat­ion among Zimbabwean youths more remarkable than their counterpar­ts in other countries. Zimbabwean youths believe in peaceful processes and have been eager in promoting and fostering a culture of peace, something which is commendabl­e and encouragin­g.

Unlike other states, Zimbabwe remains committed to prescribed and due electoral processes, hence its decision to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) to align with African shared values and standards on democracy and governance.

The active involvemen­t and significan­t appetite of Zimbabwe youths in electoral process are hopeful signs for the nation’s future and a commitment to carry forward the legacy of transparen­t leadership through elections.

 ?? ?? Barbra Thompson, the youngest Parliament­arian in the 10th Parliament
Barbra Thompson, the youngest Parliament­arian in the 10th Parliament
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