By Tinashe Musarurwa young LEAD National Spokesperson
First and foremost, we would like to appreciate our President Linda Tsungirirai Masarira who relentlessly made sure that we were part of the ZEC Youth Conference after our party has been side-lined. We would also like to thank Commissioner Jasper Mangwana who made sure that the youngLEAD delegation was accredited for the conference after our President had queried on why we were not invited.
The ZEC Youth Conference was an epoch event entering Zimbabwean records as the first ever Youth Conference on Youth Participation in Elections. With support from the Swiss Embassy, Ministry of Youth, Zimbabwe Youth Council among others the event conducted from the 13-15th May 2022 convened with youth from various Political and Civic society orientations. Being a National conference, it attracted youth from all across the country.
The main goal of the conference was to train, capacitate and empower Youth to fully and meaningfully participate in The Electoral Process, 2023 and beyond.
Dr Victor Shale of Shalestone Election and Governance Consultants led a panel of moderators including Commissioners from ZEC and Youth leaders from various Civic Society Organisations including 4H, ZYC, YETT amongst others.
With young people under the age of 35 accounting for at least 60% of Africa’s population, the role that young people should play in governance is an ever growing one. On the adverse side, it also means for as long as Youth are excluded in social, economic, legislative processes driven by the government, the bulk of the population is directly excluded as well.
Within our democratic system, the need for a Free, Fair and Credible electoral process continues to take centre stage. The choice of popular representation in Legislation remains for the Youth to be found and developed through the Youth.
Thus, participation of the Youth In Zimbabwe’s electoral process requires us as Youth to come forward and make our mark in the footsteps of Zimbabwe’s democratic evolution.
We were taken through the evolution of the electoral process on the African continent as well as some examples from across the world. It gave an ideal appreciation of the development of Zimbabwe’s electoral management board and the systems that have been introduced to streamline the Voter Registration Process.
While the BVR system is a welcome initiative in this regard a key question remains on the credibility of addresses found on the voter’s roll. We raised the issue as a technical issue regarding the urgent attention of ZEC. The Commissioners however asserted that they are still unable to monitor and audit names and addresses in the voters roll which is a cause of concern.
Youth from across the political divide also backed our query and up to the end of the Conference it remained a stalemate with ZEC claiming technological and budgetary constraints as well stating that in the words of one of the ZEC officials, “might take 60years to fix”.
The apparent threat to the voting process is the room that election campaign malpractices by politicians of vote buying. Given examples of areas like Epworth where there are many residents who do not even know their own addresses. Does this not then also create a national security issue of the need to have all residents’ addresses stored somewhere in a national database? Government can research this issue to address how such of a security measure can be taken advantage of.
As youngLEAD we encourage youth to take the bold step to participate meaningfully in the electoral process as well as in the governance of our nation. We are truly grateful for the networking opportunity this Conference created for us and we are ready to take up our position as a proactive, patriotic and determined YoungLead.
We truly appreciate the strides the current government has taken in order to ensure Zimbabwe has a simple, secure and satisfactory Electoral system. The developments over the years including among others – an accessible online Voters Roll, a simple one stop new voter registration process and a responsive electoral management board, are worthy of note.
This first conference for Youth should remain etched in history not just as the first but as the first of many. Much more voter education needs to cascade down to the grassroots. The importance of participating in an electoral process should be apparent especially to the budding Youth in greater measure.
The credibility of the voter’s roll needs to be looked with a sterner eye. If anyone can register any address without any audit being done, puts for example House of assembly and council elections in jeopardy as it becomes easy for errant politicians to buy voters to come and vote in their constituencies when these same voters actually stay in different Constituency.
The alarming cases of more than twenty individuals appearing on the voters roll on one address should not continue to be ignored as this raises a red flag against what is normally acceptable.
The ZEC BVR system should not register more than 10 voters from one address as on average there are 4 to 6 adults on any address. Not only so, but the national database stands to gain crucial information about its citizens.
The 10% Youth Quota for parliament should also be aggressively pursued as it goes away in addressing the absence of Youth legislators representing what is the majority of the population in the law-making process.
The importance of this move cannot be underestimated as Youth remain the best candidates to address the challenges that the average youth are facing.
We applaud the one voice that Youth from across the country spoke at the recent ZEC Youth Conference on Youth Participation in the Electoral Process.
Nothing can stop a generation that is willing to discover and stamp its identity in the footsteps of our nation’s pages of history. As the Youth of Zimbabwe, we are committed to meaningfully and effectively participating in our beloved nation’s electoral process.
youngLEAD National Spokesperson