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Masvingo youth question govt policy
US Embassy

June 02, 2011

Youth representatives in Masvingo questioned Zimbabwe's national youth policy during a Youth Dialogue sponsored by the Mirror newspaper and the U.S. Embassy. The young people blamed current policy for marginalizing them from the decision-making process and encouraging a culture of violence in politics, especially during elections.

"Youth in the periphery are shunned from national processes due to a lack of information leading those with resources to use young people to gain power," said Talent Maphosa, a student attached to a peace NGO, Community Tolerance, Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD). "This has also meant that those with resources dictate the development processes, as they have access to individuals in authority and institutions, at the expense of marginalized youth," said the student activist.

Maphosa and three other youth leaders based in Masvingo, Bishop Emmanuel Mawewe, lecturer Amos Mushati, and human rights activist Nadia Madambi, led a panel discussion on the role of youth in rebuilding Zimbabwe co-sponsored by the Mirror newspaper in Masvingo and the United States Embassy at a local hotel in Masvingo.

The dialogue session was attended by nearly 60 youth representatives, as well as U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray, Masvingo Mayor Femius Chakabuda and Masvingo Member of Parliament Tongai Matutu, who is also MDC-T Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenization and Empowerment.

"Government should do away with policies that discourage youth from participating in political processes, such as the requirement to produce proof of residence for one to be registered as a voter," said Nadia Ndabambi, a peace monitor with the Zimbabwe Peace Project. "The youth do not own houses," she noted. She also called for more female participation in political and governance issues. She challenged what she described as a common and dangerous perception that, "whenever a woman is involved in politics, she is described as having loose morals."

"Zimbabwe is slowly but surely creating monsters out of its youth.... What we experienced in the last elections negatively affected the gains of our liberation struggle," noted Bishop Mawewe, Founder of Judea Mission. He challenged Zimbabwean youth to find a positive, alternative view of politics.

"We need to take a different approach to politics as we head towards elections. Politics does not mean violence, it is the art of governance in accordance with good policy," said the church minister.

Amos Mushati, who chairs the Media Studies and English Language Department at Great Zimbabwe University, called for an overhaul of the education curriculum to inculcate a new mindset among youth.

" We need to come up with a curriculum that is capable of transforming the mindset of the youth so that that we move away from being show goers," said Mushati, who bemoaned a lack of participation by Zimbabwean youth in processes that would affect the future of the country. He specifically cited the recent Parliament-led constitution making process as an example.

"We need youths who are nationally conscious and sensitive to the needs of national ideals. Youth should think of Zimbabwe before any political persuasions," said the educationist.

Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenization and Empowerment Matutu answered a barrage of questions from the audience about his ministry's consultative processes, representation of youth in his ministry, indigenization policy, the national youth service and access to loans for youth development projects.

"Youth must be able to define themselves. If they fail to do so, they will be abused and used to commit acts of violence. No one will be rewarded for violence. They can be acknowledged but not rewarded. No one ever gets rich or educated from violence," said the Deputy Minister.

Matutu bemoaned the lack of coordination in youth policy noting that despite the existence of a youth ministry, other ministries also have their own youth policies. However, he defended government indigenization policy noting that it was in the implementation that there are divergent viewpoints.

The dialogue in Masvingo is the second such event supported by the United States Embassy. It was part of the United States' ongoing engagement with young Africans that began in August 2010 with President Obama's Forum with Young African Leaders in Washington, D.C.

"The U.S. is committed to supporting African solutions to Africa's challenges and to helping build networks between young American and Zimbabwean leaders that will lead to lasting partnerships," said Charles Ray, U.S. Ambassador.

The next Youth Dialogue session will be held in Bulawayo on June 16th, 2011.

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