Politicians eyeing youths as election nears

HARARE - Zimbabwe's political field took a spin at the turn of the new millennium after the emergence of MDC, a new vibrant player born in 1999.

Before that, Zanu PF had monopolised the political platform, threatening to make Zimbabwe a one party state.

While the coming of MDC on the political field brought light to democracy, it also marked a fresh era of violence that plunged Zimbabwe into a decade-long political and economic downturn.

As Zanu PF’s popularity diminished at the face of a vibrant MDC, the liberation party came up with fresh tricks to remain in power after two decades at the helm.

Zanu PF launched the “fast track land reform programme” popularly known as Hondo Yeminda, a violent seizure of white- owned farms for resettlement processes.

The mayhem that followed at the farms saw the deaths of white farmers as they clashed with war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.

A number of people lost their jobs.

The land reform programme was meant to repossess land from the whites who were occupying the most productive land, dating back to the colonial era.

The programme became infamous with Western countries leading to imposition of sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his top officials.

The programme, was badly handled by political bickering, nepotism and favouritism, in the end proving very costly as Zimbabwe plunged from its status of being the breadbasket of southern Africa to that of a basket case.

With Mugabe and his top brass under sanctions it meant the country would also feel the pinch.

Health facilities were grounded, schools closed down as teachers went on excessive strikes, and fuel became a scarce commodity while industries shut down.

Amid the chaos, massive looting and corruption brought the country to its knees, leaving several people with an uphill task to keep up with normal living standards.

Inflation hit the ceiling as never witnessed since the world war era.

In all this unfolding drama, trials and tribulations, the youths in particular became sacrificial lambs and were exploited by the rich and powerful.

Terror and exploitation for political gains became the order of the day as there was no employment for the youths.

Education became a useless tool to life with the uneducated unwittingly earning a living through various street deals.

With employment rate just at zero, several youths were enticed to join Zanu PF as party militias, in the process turned into thugs employed to harass those opposed to the party’s rule.

Activism became a form of occupation and with payment for dirty work being dangled at them; the youths flexed their muscles and intimidated the general populace.

A payroll and skills audit carried out in Zimbabwe by Ernst & Young (India) on behalf of the ministry of Public Service showed that there were several political activists “employed” in the country’s public service drawing salaries yet they were not providing useful services.

It later dawned on Zimbabweans that most of those “ghost workers” were the youths engaged as party militias working for Zanu PF during the 2008 bloody elections.

Several militias were “employed” to patronise the electorate through violence and intimidation.

Recent population census results show that youths in Zimbabwe constitute a larger percentage of the population and politicians are targeting them for votes.

As Zimbabwe heads for a watershed election, political parties have been coming up with new youth-centred formulas to garner support.

Zanu PF through Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere has come up with an indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Policy that is meant to persuade the youths into voting for the party.

The indigenisation programme has been criticised for benefitting those connected to Zanu PF, at the expense of the poor majority.

Zanu PF’s ach-rivals MDC brought their own counter programme aimed at creating over a million jobs in the next five years.

The initiative known as Jobs, Upliftment, Investment Capital and Environment (Juice) was created to alleviate unemployment levels in the country.

In all the formulae, the youths are being used as political pawns, as politicians seek to garner maximum votes.

After the elections the politicians sink into oblivion only to resurface during election time, making the hapless and unemployed youths “political condoms”. - Tendai Kamhungira

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