By Elijah Tavengwa Svidzi.
CHAPTER 2 of the Zimbabwean Constitution clearly spells out National Objectives of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
Amongst these National Objectives, the Constitution deals with issues to do with Youths, (defined as people aged between 15 and 35 years). Of importance, the Constitution provides that Youths should:
- Have access to appropriate education and training;
- Be availed with the opportunities to associate as well as be represented and to participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life
- Be afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment.
All this must be done in an inclusive and nonpartisan manner, which is national in character. A closer look onto the Zimbabwean scenario reveals that the State is wilfully breaching these constitutional provisions. The majority of Zimbabweans born between 1976 and 2000 has yet to taste the sweetness of being gainfully employed nor have they enjoyed the fruits of empowerment.
Those that have been fortunate enough to enrol at Institutions of Higher Learning have struggled to make ends meet due to a lack of Government Grants and a lack also of a conducive learning environment.
Food, which happens to be a basic human right, has largely been considered an unnecessary and unaffordable luxury at most Tertiary Institutions.
Tuition has been prohibitively high and often beyond the reach of many deserving youths. All this can be classified as denying Youths their Constitutional rights. Whenever there is an infringement upon one’s constitutional rights, the State, through its various arms such as the Judiciary and Legislature, is obliged to swiftly intervene and protect those whose rights are being violated while at the same time making those responsible for any such violations to account for their actions or inactions.
Sadly, for the Zimbabwean youths, this has remained an elusive dream.
In 2013 the then President, Robert Mugabe, launched an election Manifesto at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare. One of his key promises was that his Government, if elected into Office, would create 2,2 million jobs for the benefit of the active population of Zimbabwe, which also includes many youths. Unfortunately, the youths have waited in agony as minutes turned into hours and days into months, which cumulatively now become five years of dry waiting, with no such jobs being ever created at all. This is regardless of the fact that Robert Mugabe was given a mandate by the electorate to preside over the affairs of Zimbabwe, with the hope that he would deliver on his election campaign promises.
In November 2017 Robert Mugabe resigned at the height of Operation Restore Legacy and was subsequently replaced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The new dispensation ushered a new dawn for Zimbabwe and the unemployed youths renewed their hope for better days. Fast forward to end of the much talked about 100 days in Office by the New Administration, the youths are still just as marginalized as they were under Robert Mugabe. Nothing seems to be changing for the better.
The new Minister of Youths, Sithembiso Nyoni, is old and hasn’t done anything visible or significant to help the group that she represents in Government.
Government’s so-called “empowerment initiatives” have come and gone, but they have left out the youths. Only a select few can claim to have benefitted. The majority remains marginalized from key decision-making positions both in Government and within the ruling party, leaving Zimbabwean youths wondering as to who actually is representing their interests in Government?
When will their interests ever be advanced?
38 years after attaining Independence, Zimbabwe appears to have no comprehensive records that show the unemployment levels in the country. This can be deduced from the mistaken belief by those in authority that youths who have given up hope of ever securing employment and resultantly opted out of the job market in favour of engaging in illegal foreign currency dealings and airtime vending are now content with what they are doing. This is despite that these same youths yearn to be formally employed or to be economically empowered just as much as the country’s political and Government leaders are. Government seems to be unaware that the population of Zimbabwe is growing and that it is the young people who are increasing in number. Any population growth that’s coupled with inefficient use or allocation of resources will translate to a barrier to economic growth. Zimbabwe will not develop as long as the youths remain unemployed.
It is very disheartening to note that even Parliament seems not to care about unemployment. Parliamentarians talk much about developing the Constituencies that they represent but forget that for as long as the youths are not gainfully employed or economically empowered, that Constituency can never be classified as being developed, no matter the quality of roads or the number of boreholes found in it. This is an undeniable fact. The continuous marginalization of youths must come to an end because it is in breach of the Supreme law of Zimbabwe. The Legislature must do something in order to remedy this Constitutional breach. The Judiciary must clearly declare the marginalization of youths as Unconstitutional.
Zimbabwe has a constitutional, social and moral duty to promote and advance the interests of the youths. This must be done now rather than later, it is common knowledge that justice delayed is just as good as justice denied. The youths deserve to be treated as provided for in the Constitution. The youths must be given due and meaningful recognition, not to be just used when it’s election time, only to be discarded soon after.
Tertiary Institutions continue to churn out graduates who learn under difficult circumstances annually yet the authorities fully know that there are no employment opportunities obtaining in the Country. The girl child is forced to resort to prostitution thus being exposed to HIV/AIDS as a result of lack of alternative sources of income. By failing to invest in the future, Zimbabwe is sitting on a time bomb, sooner or later, it will explode. By shutting out the youths, the Government of Zimbabwe is violating the rights that it is obliged to observe, uphold and protect the Constitution. More so, President Mnangagwa has as heightened and singular duty to obey, uphold and defend the Constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe, as spelt out in the Oath that he swore before Chief Justice Luke Malaba on 24 November 2017.
Just like any other Zimbabwean, the youths have dreams and aspirations which the Government must promote instead of destroying as is currently the case. Operation Restore Legacy is yet to benefit the unemployed youths and it remains to be seen whether it was a pro-people operation, or it was just for the benefit of the military men. 2018 harmonized elections are on the horizon and the youth vote will be very decisive thus the interests of this group of citizens ought to be given a dignified treatment. Love them or not, youths will be critical in determining the election outcome.
As such, inclusion of youths, rather than marginalization is crucial.
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