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youth empowerment and the Constitution: Interview with George Makoni,
Information and Publicity Officer, Youth Forum
Makoni-Muchemwa , Kubatana.net
August 05, 2009
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did you get involved in working with the Youth Forum?
started as a member, then after having contributed much as a member,
I was recruited as the information and publicity officer.
work with the Youth Forum have you found that the youth want to
be engaged in changing things in Zimbabwe?
Youth actually want to be involved from the initial stages
of all the processes. What is happening in most cases is that they'll
be just called to endorse things. Where they have been involved
from the initial stages, they'll be proud owners of whatever
programme that is formulated. And they will be very responsible
in implementing those things.
legislation or issues is the Youth Forum lobbying right now?
We are working on the National Youth Policy. The current
National Youth Policy that we have, which was ushered in, in year
2000 was made by commission and consultation with the Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee and the Ministry. The youths didn't have
any input. Since the National Youth Policy has to be in line with
the Supreme Law of the Land, that is the Constitution, the Youth
Forum is collecting the views of the youths so that they will also
lobby Parliament to include those views. Then regarding the Constitution,
there are notorious Laws, which are in the Constitution to do with
the youth, like for example, the Zimbabwe National Youth Council
Act, it gives too much power to the Minister at the expense of the
youth. We are also looking at fundamental freedoms, which are critical
for youth, like the right to education, academic freedoms and so
is your stance on the situation at the University
of Zimbabwe, which is the only public university?
We are very disturbed with that situation. To say the least
it's really pathetic. And we are lobbying the Ministry of
Youth, which we mainly work with. We are lobbying the Ministry to
push the Ministry of Higher Education to consider reviewing fees
and probably engage other stakeholders, such as the government itself
and other NGOs and so forth. So that maybe subsidies can be offered.
Because honestly speaking they are just limiting education to the
elite and we feel that it is a fundamental freedom. And also the
issue of residences. You find that it's very difficult for
students because in most cases they'll be forced to board
two commuter omnibuses and it's quite expensive for them.
Something must be done about accommodation at the University of
issues do you feel are facing the youth in Zimbabwe today?
The major issue that the youth are facing is lack of empowerment.
I think they are the least empowered group in our nation. I think
for female youths, its even more - they are more vulnerable. And
as such it becomes for the politicians to take advantage of the
youth, and just use them. You find that in most of the violent incidences
to do with politics youths were both perpetrators and victims. They
are just given tokens, very small tokens to carry out criminal activities.
The only way youths can be liberated is to empower them. Not only
through tangible resources or material resources, but even intangible
resources such as information. I think if they participate from
an informed position, they'll be able to make better decisions.
They are uninformed in most of the things that they do in terms
of the consequences and so forth.
do you feel about Minister Kasukwere's statement saying he
was going to lobby Parliament to make youth service compulsory?
I think the issue of making National Youth Service Compulsory,
per se, is not a bad thing. In the sense that even in some developed
countries like America and the UK, National Youth Service is compulsory.
It is used as a breeding ground upon which the youths are trained
to be not only leaders of tomorrow but also the leaders of that
day. But there are things that should be addressed before National
Service is taken up. Like for example you find that as the youth
forum we tried to ask for the syllabus that they were using for
the past four years. And they've been concealing it because
mostly those people in the National Youth Service were being used
as militia. They were being told that if you are not ZANU PF then
you are an enemy and so forth. National Youth Service is not necessarily
bad. It's the principles and procedures, which must be addressed.
And I think considering that we do not have adequate resources National
youth Service must be part of the curriculum in our education system
rather than having a totally different institution. I think considering
the economic crisis that we are having it's a waste of resources.
do you think will be the final outcome of the arrest of MDC MPs.
Will ZANU PF be able to gain a majority in Parliament?
I don't think so, because, ultimately, there's
a clause within the Global
Political Agreement, which says that in the event that an MP
is no longer in his, or her position there won't be by-elections
for a period of about a year. I think this will just give MDC a
chance to field another Parliamentarian. Honestly speaking, in terms
of support on the ground MDC is still in control. Even if that period
of no by-elections lapses the MDC is most likely to win the elections.
think there are activists, particularly youth activists for hire
Yah, actually there are many of those. As I said earlier
on, the politicians take advantage of that. They are the most affordable
hire, in the sense that even with a pint of beer or two a youth
can be told to do whatever the MP deems necessary. Most of those
politicians are winning as a result of youth's participation
and they do what they would have been told to do. So youths have
no other way of living besides being used. And to them they'll
be thinking that maybe that's how they can survive because
they do not any other alternative.
a youth who finds themselves in that situation where they are being
exploited by politicians or by other people or groups, what advice
do you have for them to empower themselves?
What I can advise the youths is that they do not have to
wait for those in positions of authority to give them the empowerment
which they need. I think it's high time they should start
demanding for that. I think it should be one of the basic tenets
of their demands in their struggle. To fight for participation.
I think the most effective way to empower them is to make them participate
in the exact meaning of the word. They should demand, say for example
in this Constitution making process, that they must have a certain
percentage of representatives in Parliament and also find ways that
their voice is heard. As long as they do not have an adequate voice
in these highest decision making bodies, then they won't be
able to make the change that they want.
does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment to me means being self sufficient in all aspects.
That is being able to sustain your livelihood, being able to get
all the basic necessities, being able to be a proud citizen unlike
just being a second class citizen and affording all the things which
you want. Not at the behest of anyone but out of your own will.
are your thoughts on the Constitutional
Conference that was organised by the ZCTU?
I think their cause was noble. In the sense that they feel
that the one by the government is not people driven and they want
to dwell more on the Kariba
Draft and so forth which is not democratic to the people.
believe that it will result in a people driven Constitution?
I think the ZCTU should find common ground with the government.
For as long as they fight for their own document, that document
won't be having enough legitimacy. I think the document, which
they have together with the NCA,
will just be relevant as a reference document. I don't think
it will really make sense if they just come up with their document
without the government. I think there must be common ground with
the government and see how best their differences can be harmonized.
I don't think that this time we can afford not to have a Constitution
again and then go back to the Lancaster Conference (Constitution).
Maybe there can be a need for a mediator. I don't think it
is impossible. I think its quite possible. Obviously there will
be compromises, which will be made, but I think this time we must
have a people driven democratic constitution in the exact meaning
of the words.
the framework of the two Constitutional processes that are going
on, is it likely that we are going to see a people driven constitution
from either process?
Obviously we are going to see it. We are definitely going to come
up with a document and I personally hope that there are compromises,
which are going to be made between these two parties. I think one
fact which should be known by everyone is that the MDC still has
the sympathy of the majority of people in Zimbabwe, and there is
that euphoria although there's criticism that they haven't
reached the levels which people expect. People still feel that in
terms of democratization we are going somewhere. As such people
will definitely vote for the Constitution in which the government
is taking part. And I want to repeat that it's the MDC that
still has the control of the majority of people, and as such it
will be easier to go and tell their supporters just to support the
document that will be in place.
do you think about the recent developments with regard to the Media
Personally I think they are very positive. Particularly in terms
of the licensing of the Daily News; the invitation of BBC; the invitation
of CNN. I think those are positive moves. It's something that
we have been calling for. I want to see what the Daily News will
be like. Will it be as thorough as it was before being banned; are
there no other restrictions that are going to be associated with
that. If there is nothing like that, then its one of the greatest
moves which this inclusive government has made.
about the freezing of the interviews for the Media Commision?
Personally I think its quite ok. I was also questioning
the larger number of people who sympathize with ZANU PF you know
the likes of Rino Zhuwarara, the likes of Tafataona Mahoso, the
likes of Kindness Paradza. Most of those guys were more inclined
to ZANU PF and they were most likely to play the tricks they played.
But I think very soon they'll be able to gather those interviews.
I hope it won't be used as an excuse to take even more time
reviewing it. They should simply have a balanced composition of
people who make up that commission.
opinion will the GNU succeed in fulfilling the terms of the Global
Yes. But it is a process and not an event. Personally I
think that it won't be done in accordance with the two years
that were set. I think the time is too little for that. It might
even take up to five years, considering the friction that is there
between MDC-T and ZANU PF. If you look at MDC-T their support is
mainly based on the generality of Zimbabweans. Those who have nothing
to offer except their votes and support. Whilst ZANU PF is supported
by critical pillars of governance, such as the judiciary, the army
and they are still in control of the media. And if you look at the
type of propaganda, which they are mechanizing right now in both
electronic and print media you find that they are still very far
from relinquishing power. So it needs more time to see how best
they can be allowed to leave power. If we go for elections again,
people are still afraid because of the June 27 experience. And ZANU
PF still says the legacy of the liberation struggle will not just
go like that. So there is need for great diplomacy and strategies
to ensure that eventually ZANU PF relinquishes power. I predict
that there will be a compromise of some sort at an elite level that
people on the ground won't know. It's going to take
more time than we expect.
kind of compromise do you see?
A compromise which I see is that maybe ZANU PF and MDC
can agree that constituency A is for party A, Constituency B is
for party B. One lesson that the Government of National Unity has
depicted is that the people's power can be done away with
in preference of the politicians' power. I think the people
will be complaining. They'll be crying and moaning and so
forth but for the politicians I think they'll be able to remain
you say this compromise is democratic?
It's not democratic. I think, as even the Prime Minister
said, it is the most workable agreement, so it's just a marriage
of convenience. The most democratic thing was expressed on the 29th
of March 2009.
run up to ZANU PF party elections, ZANU PF has been quick to endorse
President Mugabe, Party Secretary John Nkomo has even been quoted
by the Financial Gazette as saying that there are no vacancies within
the party structures. Why do you think this is so and do you then
that ZANU faces stagnation as a party because of this?
I think Robert Mugabe has succeeded as a personal cult
of ZANU PF. He has succeeded as a demigod of the party. Robert Mugabe
is ZANU PF and ZANU PF is Robert Mugabe. It has been realized that
as long as they maintain the status quo, then they will also be
preserved. There is a mutual agreement that the likes of John Nkomo,
Emmerson Mnangagwa and most of the guys in the party, there are
some dissenting voices that are saying, no you should give us a
chance. There's been an alliance against that. Those guys
are taking advantage of the control of resources and institutions
of governance to ensure that no one will remove them from power.
It's just an agreement to cling to power.
PF likely to survive Robert Mugabe leaving?
The death of Robert Mugabe, or anyway in which he will
be removed will leave ZANU PF as the weakest party in Africa. He
had centralized everything on himself. It will be very difficult
to find a person to replace him. In the party there are factions
already. The Mujuru faction and the Mnangagwa faction both feel
that they will be able to fill the vacancy. You will find that there
will be massive intra-party violence. I don't see ZANU PF
surviving after that fight.
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