Elections road map must protect young people

OPINION – As negotiators in the Inclusive government continue to pull in different directions under the nose of the guarantors, Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), emphasis should be on putting in place mechanisms that make a free and fair poll possible that is violence free.

The media has been awash with stories on the goings on in the inter-party negotiations between the two Movement for Democratic Change formations and Zanu PF on the prospect of holding elections either next year or in 2013 with talk that the political parties submitted their proposals to facilitator Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

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However, what is a cause for concern is that in the muscle flexing between these politicians is that there has been no mention of how young people will be protected from the ills of a clumsily organised election which in the past has left scores of youths dead while others are still nursing the wounds up to this day and others actually sustained permanent injuries.

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It is so sad that 30 years after independence, our national leaders are still not aware of the importance of putting young people at the heart of national planning, but continue to live in the past where they boast of their exploits in the yesteryear.

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One great philosopher once said, “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children.” This should hold true to all progressive nations but it is unfortunate that young people in our country continue to be ignored yet they constitute a larger proportion of the national population.

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During the 2008 elections, youths were at the receiving end of a poll that was marred by violence and intimidation to such an extent that many of them fled their homes especially in the rural areas while some were forced to live in mountains and hills for fear of being tortured and killed.

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Most young men and women were forced into “bases” which were set up by the Zanu PF regime, that were characterised by massive human rights violations were the youths were tortured and left for dead while young women and girls were raped with reckless abandon.

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The violent 2008 run off plebiscite left many households which were headed by young people without breadwinners after they were killed in the run up to the election which SADC described as a sham while others were left with permanent disabilities.

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The political leadership of this country should know that as they prepare a road map for the impending elections, they should bear in mind that the outcome of such a road map should recognise that youths are the leaders of today whose aspirations should be put first before any other selfish political ends.

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It should also be known that an election organised on the wishes of a certain political class and not of the ordinary young man and woman of this country is a recipe for disaster.

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Given the tension that exists between youths from the MDC and Zanu PF, a road map that does not have the will to address this tension is as good as if there is no one because violence will once again erupt and leave the nation nursing wounds from a conflict that could have been avoided, with youths at the receiving end as usual.

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Young people must demand that the road map being crafted with the help of SADC recognise the crucial role that they play in the political landscape of this country and that it puts in place mechanisms that ensure that the impending election do not degenerate into a war and that it does not leave the nation divided as was the case in 2008.

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Francis Rwodzi is a Journalist based in Harare and Editor of The New Age Voices published by Youth Agenda Trust.

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