The journey to Shurugwi used to be my favourite as it was exhilarating. Back then, everyone in the bus would peep through the windows admiring the beauty of the meandering Boterekwa mountains, undeniably one of the most beautiful places in Zimbabwe.
The journey, although a bit long, was made better by this amazing site which made the long trip more bearable.
On one sunny day, I had decided to embark on a trip to Shurugwi to have a chat with artisanal miners commonly known as otsheketsha or makorokoza. This group is mostly made up of young people whom on this day l decided to have a conversation with, to find out their understanding of political processes.
Typically, as a journalist, l prepare questions before an interview, but this crowd is different from every other crowd l have interviewed. They are unpredictable, a bit feisty and aggressive so l did not prepare any as l wasn’t sure if l would be welcome at all.
Upon arrival at the scenic Boterekwa, I notice that it is no longer the same, things have completely changed. The miners have invaded the scenic Boterekwa, and deep into its bellies, they have dug huge trenches in search of the yellow metal.
A quick chat with them gives you a different perspective about life. It reveals the varying political perspectives within different populations, and also unravels a new level of understanding of young people’s voting apathy.
The miners are seated haphazardly under a tree as they quickly munch their packed sadza and cabbage before they return to work. No one is talking to the other, there is no time for that. To break the lingering tension, l hesitantly start a conversation, not sure if l will get a response. Surprisingly they do respond, turns out it’s my lucky day.
“Have you guys registered to vote?” I blatantly asked.
“Why should we?” one in black shorts and black tank top shouted back. “Do you think we have time to waste, we have families to feed?” he continued.
At this point l am not sure of what to say because this crowd was unpredictable. They are all awkwardly staring at me like l had said something wrong. Fidgeting with my pen and notebook, I just stood there and gazed back at them.
“There is so much violence happening in political circles. More and more people keep losing their lives all in the name of being part of political processes. Why then do you want us to participate yet it is clear that it’s a dangerous terrain? If l get killed, my family will suffer because I am the bread winner,” said the other one in a black jacket.
“Just in March during the campaign, a young person lost his life in Kwekwe during a Citizen for Coalition Change rally. Don’t you know that? How many more young people should lose their lives until they realise that politics is not for them?” he quizzed, shrugging his shoulders.
I suddenly get drawn in. So l continued to listen.
“The most painful thing about this whole violence issue in politics is that it’s being perpetrated by young people like us, and the victims are usually the young people.
“In essence, it means we are being pitted against each other by the big wigs in politics yet they comfortably relax in their mansions. I don’t want to kill or be killed just to please someone,” he blurted.
They suddenly stood up and go back to work while l packed my pen and notebook and leave.
While leaving, l notice a woman with a baby strapped on her back standing in a ditch with water and using mercury to separate gold from ore. Another toddler is playing with stones next to her.
I approach her and say my greetings. She hesitantly replies while staring at me. I quickly introduce myself and the conversation begins. She tells me that politics is for men and that women should focus on taking care of their families.
“If I am to take part in electoral processes, who will then look after my children. Let men do that while l worry about taking care of my kids. A woman’s job is in the kitchen and we all know that. Mina angifuni kufela into engingayaziyo,” she says. Loosely translated to Do you want me to die for things I don’t know of.
I thank her and leave. On the way back to my workplace, it then dawns on me that so many people are eager to participate yet so many obstacles are hindering them from participation, violence being one of the leading factors.
Violence has made politics look ugly, therefore a no-go area especially for those who are vulnerable as they fear for their lives. Recently, Moreblessing Ali of Nyatsime area in Chitungwiza was brutally murdered in an alleged politically motivated violence.
According to the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network such violent clashes in politics and electoral processes can result in voter apathy.
“Violent clashes have a potential to adversely affect the turnout of citizens on the ongoing voter registration exercise as violence impacts negatively on the participation in electoral processes especially of women and people with disabilities. Political and electoral related violence undermines civil and political rights and affects citizens’ right to compete in electoral processes.
“Also, it erodes trust in democratic processes as well as
undermines the quality of democracy thereby, limiting inclusive participation,” reads a statement by ZESN on political violence.
What then can be done to alleviate violence in political circles, one may ask.
The principal consultants at Shalestone Elections and Governance Consultants Victor Shales said violence in electoral and political processes is one of the main factors hindering youth participation.
“Violence has been seen as one of the factors contributing to voter apathy amongst young people. There is a need for erection of legal instruments that will deter violent elements in the political circles.
“There is a need to give politics a new face that makes it attractive and that includes elimination of violence. If that is done, then the youths can once again be attracted to take part in these processes,” he said.
But the fact still remains, most young people in different sectors of the economy are scared of taking part in politics due to violence.
It’s high time young people and powers that be, sit down and find ways of completely eradicating violence in politics if their participation is anything to go by.
So many young people in the country share the same sentiments with these miners. It means that without their participation or representation, there is no meaningful democracy. There is a need therefore to educate them on the importance of taking part in political and electoral processes as it is their right.
As young people let’s push for the enactment of legal instruments that will strongly deter perpetrators from committing these heinous crimes.
After all has been said and done something needs to be done to eliminate violence in political circles and it has to be done now.