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letter to Minister of Youth, Indigenization and Empowerment Hon Francis
Danai Chenaimoyo Nhema
Greetings to you Hon Minister and allow me to pass my congratulatory message upon winning your elections as well as being appointed a minister for yet another term, though this time under the ministry of youth. Am sure you that hailing from the dusty Nhema village to the air conditioned offices in Harare is nothing short of a journey of success. This success is one that is worthy to recognize and envy as a young person. But before I dwell on the reasons for writing you this letter, let me start by quoting the person who appointed you, the President himself who said this about you. "Kasukuwere is an extrovert and Nhema is an introvert. If the introvert goes to sleep we will take him away" (Daily News 12.09.2013).
Let me tell you some of the things that us as young people had to endure post 2000, when we had to deal with extroverts in the form of the late Boarder Gezi and the person mentioned by His Excellency. The lives of young people under the leadership of the two was one that is worth forgetting. It's a history where young people where run like a laboratory with some of the experiments succeeding whilst many did not come out right. As a Zanu-PF member am sure that most of these things you are aware of, but as an introvert, am sure coming to this ministry will allow you to bring the calmness you have in person to the ministry that had for the past decade been used as a battle ground for Zimbabwean politics.
Whether you agree with me or not Minister, but the formation of Movement for Democratic Change in 1999 gave your party a rude wake up call that there was a new generation of young men and women who wanted change not only of leadership, but also of how to do things differently so as to satisfy the social, economic, civic and political demands. This generation not only was it lead by a young political party, but by your political party standards, young people. This made your party post 2000 (I know then you were in the comfort of some non militant ministry), to strategically think of how it was going to retain the presidential victory after losing nearly half of parliamentary seats in 2000. In its wisdom they saw disgruntlement all over including institutions that were supposed to be the 'last men standing'. Young people automatically became the target, using the parliamentary majority/supremacy, the then government to which you were party to, decided to amend the National Youth Act, to bring back the long forgotten national Youth Service Programme (NYSP), which had been discarded in 1985. The provision of the NYSP was put by Ian Smith in 1979 under the National Service Act; which regulated recruitment for national service and the military when he realized that he was fast losing the war and he needed young people to drive it, what was popularly known as 'Call up'. As you know Honourable (not sure which schools you attended), given that you come from Shurugwi, you are aware of what happened to children at Dadaya, Gokomere, Tsambe, Mt Selinda, to mention a few during that time as Smith implemented that programme.
Your party as we have always suspected, came into power with very few new ideas (forgiven given that most of the practitioners were in the bush for quite a long time), only perfected what the Smith regime had left. So to deal with the visibly disgruntled population, who were not even satisfied with the land that they had been allowed to invade, someone must have reminded the comrades about kuCall up. The political context needed a cabinet with energy, the rise of opposition politics through civil society and MDC, needed an energetic reactionary Zanu-PF. Besides the entrance of people like you, Jonathan Moyo into cabinet, we saw a young Boarder "Boarder to Boarder" Gezi rising from almost nowhere to land the post of Ministry of Youth. The government then immediately equipped him with the Smith archive, the national youth policy and allowed him through a parliamentary majority to amend it in 2001 and brought in a new meaning to NYSP that included issues like patriotism, am sure if it was In 2013 it could have included indigenization! This as I have said was to ensure that the 1st secretary of your party retains the presidency of the nation. 2001-2002 saw a new breed of young people, the once that Mr Josiah Hungwe's current ministry if it was there then, was going to keep him very busy.
Youths turned against their brothers and sisters, they looted (ask those who live in villages near Mushagashe college near Masvingo). Vocational training institutions were turned into military barracks, whilst a military barrack in Mt Darwin (Boarder Gezi training centre) was turned into classrooms. War veterans found themselves being called lecturers and the police did not have to set road blocks anymore. All in the name of preparing for an election. This militarisation of young people made them to be social outcast, made ordinary citizens, and I repeat ordinary, to shun the NYSP, including you guys who had children that were qualified to join the infamous programme. As PATRIOTIC Zimbabweans why is it that we never saw your kids in those training camps, if the teaching that was taking place was of quality and made Zimbabwe to be proud of its youths? So the people who ran the ministry made sure that sons and daughters of the poor will turn against each other, kill each other and loot from each other. What a strategy, sadly though. Unconfirmed reports say that youths from the training centers were used to harass, intimidate, torture, and kill anyone who opposed the ideologies of Zanu-PF. Also serious human rights violations were reported within the training camps. It is alleged that girls were repeatedly raped by other trainees and training officials, leaving them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Thank God the economic meltdown of 2006-2008 (am know you are almost saying caused by sanctions!), caused by governance deficiency made the programme to be officially stopped. By this time we had a young Turk in the form of Saviour "Tyson" Kasukuwere as our minister. The nickname says it all, another militant cadre. Though training at the camps was stopped in 2007, graduates from these institutions are still being deployed to carry out partisan work. According to the report given to parliament by the Deputy Minister of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment in 2009, 80 000 youths graduated from the National Youth Service between 2001 and 2007. Some of the graduates are said to have been incorporated into the country's security services namely the police force, the army, prison services and the secret service. Others are employed under the Ministry of Youth as youth development officers in different constituencies across the country.
Comrade (let me call you this because this is a serious statistics), the public institutions are now full of people rewarded for all sorts of wrong deeds. The figure is actually very modest and as a senior minister who sat in cabinet, you know the real figures. The country and population was saved by the Inclusive Government which ensured that there was a need to revisit the programme, though we all know that your party wanted it as raw as it was in 2001. You and me know very well that the Inclusive Government tried to sanitize the programme, under article 15 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), but your predecessor was keen to ensure that the programme bounces back, through selfish, deliberate and mischievous misinterpretation of the that article. However the cabinet could not be fooled and if my memory serves me right cabinet threw out the proposal for reintroduction three times.
Given the situation that Zimbabwean youths find themselves in, youth empowerment is one undisputed solution. Mr Kasukuwere did all that he could to ensure that facilities are put into place to ensure that youths seize to " just looking forward to be employees but to becomes employers". Through the Zimbabwe Youth Council, and relationships between the ministry and financial institutions we began to see some movement towards that noble idea. But before you smile, allegations of biased funds allocation favouring youths from your party made youths to be suspicious of the motive. The then minister as well as the Youth Council deny this allegation. This effort was informed by the surging unemployment levels. Currently your Honourable, Zimbabwe's unemployment rate does not show any signs of recovery, given the backdrop of economic collapse faced in the last decade. As of 2011, of the 6.1 million people making up the labour force, 59 % of them were aged 15 to 34 years, showing the importance of the youth as economic agents contributing immensely to labour supply for growth and development in the country. Worryingly, current figures show that four out of every five unemployed persons are the youth. The youth are also 83% of contributing family workers, 56 percent of own account workers in communal farming and 69 percent of casual employees. These types of employment are "vulnerable employment" because of the very low incomes earned and also they don't have any social protection. Clearly most of the youth are in vulnerable employment, an indication of poverty among the young generation in Zimbabwe. However, of the US$10 million Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund that was launched in November 2011 as an empowerment vehicle for youths across Zimbabwe, a report released by the Ministry of Youth Indigenization and Economic Empowerment, by June 2012 just over 10% of the fund had been distributed to 514 youths and this equates to only 0.01% of Zimbabwe's estimated youth population of 4.2 million. The distribution of the fund has also seen some provinces such as Matebeleland South receiving only 3% of $1.1 million distributed by June 2012.
This sad reality comes into the face of youths who are affected and infected by HIV/AIDS pandemic, poor sexual and reproductive health knowledge and rundown social service delivery. Honourable minister there are young people who have been working day in day out to either compliment the government or to cover up for its poor performances, by forming different organizations. History has shown us that for an organization to be registered as a Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) is taxing and very slow, yet there are a lot of demands for services and information from the youths. This made youths organizations to register as Trusts and most of these trusts are not members of the Zimbabwe Youth Council due to its partisan past. Sometime this year the then minister proposed the Zimbabwe Youth Council (General) regulations, 2013 (SI4 2013). Mr Kasukuwere went beyond the purview of the Zimbabwe Youth Act and has given the Zimbabwe Youth Council powers beyond those provided for in the Act. For example section 2 of the Regulations states that;"These regulations shall apply to all youth associations that are directly or indirectly involved in youth activities". They create an entity known as "youth association" which is not in the parent Act, this means that the Minister made law using the regulations, that is illegal. They ban the operation of unregistered youth associations, despite the fact that the parent Act does not prescribe penalties for non-registration, let alone forbid unregistered entities from operating. Section 10 of the Regulations impose a financial levy on associations to facilitate the day to day running of the Youth Council affairs. The levy is both on the organization and its members. We view this as a deliberate punishment and penalty especially for those organizations that have huge membership. Youth organizations do not have such amount of money, and if an organization for example National Students Union is forced to pay it will automatically become broke. We as young people would be glad if you;
Once again congratulations for landing this ministry that deals with national assets (youth), and we believe that your introverteness will translate the lives of young people into better ones as you not only enjoy 'one party government', but also 70% of parliament. Let this victory not sway you and your ministry from creating a conducive environment for youth development. I thank you
Visit the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe fact sheet
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