Of youth participation in electoral processes

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It’s 10 o’clock in the morning and 20-year-old Tinashe Sibanda from Makepesi village in Lower Gweru is about to take his father’s cows to the grazing pastures where he will collect them later in the evening.

His weary smile cannot go unnoticed as he walks slowly towards the kraal.

Young Tinashe believes youths like him have no place in electoral and political processes as politics is only reserved for old and rich people.  

He believes registering to vote, let alone voting, is a waste of time which can be utilised in doing productive work like tilling the fields or gold panning in search of the yellow metal.

“Look, l lost interest in politics when l saw that it’s only a game for old people with money, not people like us.

“Look at me, none of them care about me so why should I care about their politics? Besides, even if we vote for them, they do not come back here to fulfil their promises, so why should we care.”

He strongly believes that taking part in electoral processes that range from pre-elections phase, elections phase and post elections phase is not for everyone.

Just like youthful Tinashe, most young people do not see the importance of participating in the political process as they claim their participation does not make a difference, nor does it change anything.

To them taking part or not changes nothing.

According to Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, the youth constitute over 67% of the country’s population yet their participation in political processes remains relatively low.

According to  official figures  obtained from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), 43% of voters in 2018 elections were the youth.

Although various factors like violence, poverty, lack of knowledge and lack of documents have resulted in young people not taking part in electoral processes, there is a need for them to understand that voting is their fundamental right and if they don’t, they are denying themselves an opportunity to exercise that right.

It goes without saying that young people need to be actively involved in decision making processes and formulation of processes as those decisions and policies directly and indirectly affect their present and their future.

As the 2023 harmonised elections are getting closer as each day passes, thousands of young people are trying to register so that they can participate in this big occasion.

However, others have decided not to participate.

A number of reasons have been cited as behind the apathy by the youth. 

Many times, people especially the youth are ignorant on why they should participate.

ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba believes that there was a need for youth to take part in electoral processes so that their voices are heard.

“The youths are the future and they need to participate in bread-and-butter issues. They cannot ignore politics because that affects their lives directly and sometimes indirectly. 

“Therefore, the youths must vote so that their interests and opinions are represented leading to sustainable development,” she said.

Justice Chigumba said young people  should be aware that there is a youth quota  which stipulates that 10 seats in parliament are reserved for the youth.

“I challenge the youths in Zimbabwe to take part in electoral processes so that they occupy positions that give them power to make decisions that will benefit them. For example, very few youths understand the provision of the youth quota which states that 10 seats in the house of assembly should be reserved for them. We therefore need them to take part so that they occupy those seats,” she said.

To some young people, voting is only standing in a queue, getting your finger dipped in an ink and putting that ‘X’ and get going.

To them it’s just one of those periods that come after five years where political parties make promises they will not fulfil.

To them it’s just one of those phases where old people use young people to attain their gains and then toss them away after they win.

Head of the African Governance Architecture Secretariat at the African Union,  Ambassador Salah Hammad said it is imperative that young people take part and have interest in political processes.

“The issue of youth participating in electoral processes should be non-negotiable. Youth in Africa make up over 70 percent of the population therefore their presence in political processes should be felt. Youth have a mandate to bring continuity and sustainability in political and electoral processes.  

Youth participation in these crucial processes can never be over emphasised. Its high time youth take a stand and make their voices heard. As young people we have to constantly encourage each other to be part and parcel of political processes.  The time has come and the time is now.  If not you and me, then who? If not now, then when?” Hammad asked.

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