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Now is the time for hope: Voices of Zimbabwe's youth
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
April 21, 2011

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Zimbabwe stands 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.

"I strongly 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." Listen

The Zimbabwean 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.

Dzikamai BereDzikamai 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." Listen

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.

"It's 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." Listen

Tafadzwa MugabeTafadzwa is also a firm but realistic believer in the future.

"There 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." Listen

Tafadzwa insists on holding Zimbabwe's politicians accountable.

"I think 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 right."

Zimbabwe's 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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