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is the time for hope: Voices of Zimbabwe's youth
April 21, 2011
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on the brink of change. Much has been made of the winds of the Arab
Spring possibly being blown across Southern Africa, and in particular,
in Zimbabwe. While there have been attempts at seeding civil disobedience
via social media like Facebook by the born free tech savvy generation,
this has failed, largely in part because those who wished to start
the revolution were Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora. That is
not to say that Zimbabwe's young adults have given up.
Born in the
late 1970s and early 80s, the 'born-free' generation
grew up in a Zimbabwe that had just attained her independence. The
country was prosperous, and many black families became socially
mobile moving into formerly white only neighbourhoods, schools and
spheres of business, creating what became Zimbabwe's black
middle class. Economic opportunities in the new Zimbabwe were numerous,
but this came to change after years of poor economic policies, mismanagement
and corruption, culminating in the political and economic upheavals
of the 2000s. 20 years after Independence, millions of young adults
were migrating annually for tertiary education or economic opportunity.
It is estimated that up to a quarter of Zimbabwe's population
lives outside of the country.
Lawyer and Human
Rights Defender Tafadzwa Mugabe graduated from the University
of Zimbabwe in 2002. Having worked with Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights, he has been at the forefront of the post independence
struggle for democracy.
believe that the past decade has been really sad for our country
to the extent that most of our families have been decimated by death
or immigration and displacement for one reason or another. And the
national psyche is very unstable, characterised by a lot of fear
of the government, and I for one do not like that."
state after 2000 became very repressive in an effort to stem criticism.
This has resulted in the closing of democratic spaces, traditionally
occupied by young adults, who have the energy to bring renewal to
the country. Despite the dire situation many young people find themselves
in, they are not without hope for a change in Zimbabwe's fortunes.
Bere, a social reformist and writer says, "Now
is the time for hope. There are times when you feel that things
are hopeless. When you look at the political front you become quite
hopeless. I will be blunt: when you look at the church you will
also be hopeless because politicians have taken it over. When you
look at civil society as well you can despair because the same evils
that have befallen the politics of this country are also there.
When you look at the media it's the same. So sometimes you
ask yourself where our salvation will come from. In the middle of
all this, we the young people of Zimbabwe should not lose hope.
We must believe that there is always space for transformation and
there is always an opportunity for transformation. Here, now, it
will have an effect in the future."
Like the liberation
struggle generation before them, the born free generation has a
deep desire to contribute to the fruition of the dream that is Zimbabwe.
For Rutendo Mudzamiri, who works with an organisation that encourages
the active participation of women in political processes, there
is no doubt about what is needed for Zimbabwe to move forward.
not about party politics anymore. Politicians will be there and
politicians will not be there tomorrow, as citizens, as a people
we need to be able to unite, we need to be able to speak with one
voice on what we want regardless of political affiliation. We are
Zimbabweans first. We need to be sure of what we want, we want better
education, we want better health. As a nation the things that bring
us together are more than the things that really divide us."
She goes on
to say, "as long as we have breath, as a young generation
I believe that we can speak with one voice, we can come together,
we can join forces, whether you're in civic society or political
parties. Like Ghandi said: 'be the change that you want to
see'. We are the change. The future is in our hands."
is also a firm but realistic believer in the future.
is great potential. I haven't realised all my dreams yet,
but I remain confident that this is the place for me. I don't
really think about going anywhere else. There are a lot of things
I wish I could improve, about myself, about my situation, about
my surroundings, but I'm still very optimistic that our time
is coming. It's on the horizon, and we will change what we
will be able to change."
on holding Zimbabwe's politicians accountable.
there must be a change of mindset. The people that call themselves
our leaders are there because of us. It is not a privilege for us
to be led by them. As a Zimbabwean there are certain things that
I expect from the people that are in a leadership position. There
are certain things I should be able to go and freely claim as a
revolution is not going to take the form of those in Egypt and Tunisia.
It is going to be a quiet one that involves a change in attitude,
the engagement of compassion and small acts of resistance. Young
adults are at the forefront of this movement; refusing to let a
generation that is past it's time to continue to renege on
the promise of Independence.
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