Youth groups slam statutory instrument

HARARE - Youths are outraged at the enactment of a new statutory instrument which forces them to pay hefty annual fees to the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) and could be used to close down pro-democracy youth groups.

“The statutory instrument makes our registration as Private Voluntary Organisations inadequate without registering with the Zimbabwe Youth Council,” said GlanisChangare, director of Institute for Young Women Development.

“The Council will approve where funding should come from and require us to submit our work plans.”

Statutory Instrument SI4/2013, drawn by the ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment, gives government sweeping powers to interfere with the operations of any youth organisation in Zimbabwe through the government-appointed ZYC.

The instrument demands that all youth organisations must furnish the ZYC with their annual work plans, budgets and donor information.

The registration of all youth organisations will also be renewable every year at the discretion of the ZYC.

Under the statutory instrument, youth organisations are prohibited from receiving any foreign funding.

The SI states that it is mandatory for all youth organisations and associations to pay $3 membership fees for each of their members by February 15 of each year, a figure which translates to thousands of dollars for organisations such as student unions, church organisations, boy scouts and girl guides.

Section 2 of the SI states that the regulations “apply to all youth associations that are directly or indirectly involved in youth activities.”

Douglas Tigere, director of the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ), said:  “Ultimately the statutory instrument will make us bankrupt because we have to pay $3 for each member we have. Our survival is now at the mercy of the council and I do not think any youth would want to let the SI continue.”

Youth Alliance for Democracy (YAD) director, Tichaona Masiyambiri — a former ZYC board member — said the SI was a fundraising gimmick for the ZYC by minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

“ZYC wants to harvest from youth organisations over and above the registration fees that we pay to them,” Masiyambiri said. “Some Zanu PF-aligned youth organisations are not happy as well.”

Wellington Zindove of the Youth Forum said: “The government is supposed to be pouring resources to the youth and not the other way round.”

Youths believe the legislation will be applied selectively, as has been the case with other repressive apparatus introduced over the last decade.

“I do not see that instrument affecting youth organisations linked to the State but those seeking democratic transformation,” said Liberman Bhebhe, director general of National Youth Development Trust (NYDT).

Youth organisations argue that the statutory instrument highlights the obligation of the youths to the ZYC but is silent on the State Council’s obligations and that of government to the youths.

Lawrence Mashungu, Youth Agenda Trust programmes manager; said youths were not consulted in the crafting of the legislation.

“It is sad that the ministry has the temerity of crafting such legislation without consulting the youth, it must serve the interests of young people and not persecute them,” said Mashungu.

Students Solidarity Trust Director Simbarashe Moyo said the instrument turns Kasukuwere into a “headmaster.”

Bhebhe said the statutory instrument must be viewed in the context of the continued harassment of NGOs.
Bhebhe said the law could be invoked to restrict the work of youth movements, which have an interest in the democratisation agenda ahead of the upcoming harmonised elections.

“There is a realisation that any meaningful transformation will be informed by young people because they are now the game changers,” Bhebhe said.

“It follows in the spirit of the NGO Bill which was meant to make the operating environment difficult.”

Youths said they were lobbying Parliament to repeal the statutory instrument. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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