Harare — Zimbabwean school leavers and young university graduates seem to be struggling more than ever in their country where unemployment rate stands at 90%, with most of them young people. And they don't believe that any of the present leaders or politicians can fix their situation. Elections are expected sometime this year, but these desperate youths seem to have lost faith even in the ballot.
"I have never voted before and I do not see myself voting anytime soon," said Kudzai Moyo, a catering student at a Harare tertiary institution.
She says that in Zimbabwe, even if you decide to vote, it will never count. "(President) Robert Mugabe still has a way of rigging the elections in his favour even if you all vote against him."
Even with the presence of current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as the biggest opposition since 2000, Mugabe has still been winning elections, be it by narrow margins.
Although people want Mugabe out, some say they find no alternative choice among local presidential hopefuls. Even Tsvangirai, a partner in the Mugabe-led coalition, does not seem to cut it anymore among the youths. They believe he campaigned for the imposition of western sanctions on Zimbabwe.
"There is no one to vote for," says Tafadzwa Maunganidze, a 26-year-old bank teller, "Tsvangirai is not the solution neither because I do not trust his closeness to western countries."
Mugabe's propagandists have repeatedly blamed the country's economic woes on the embargo. America and Europe imposed sanctions on his regime a decade ago for alleged poll theft and rights abuses.
Songs of praise
According to Zimbabwe's demographic studies, the youth, which is those below 35, constitute over half of the population. So, if you do the math, the party that wins the support of that section of the nation has a bigger chance of winning the next polls.
Already, politicians are busy doing something about it. And here, President Mugabe has taken the lead.
His party, Zanu-PF, has been splashing thousands of US dollars contracting American and Jamaican music stars to come perform in Zimbabwe, in a move to lure the youths. He has even required the service of local artists in the name of Born Free Crew. The young members of the band has the task to produce songs of praise to Mugabe.
The leader is apparently frustrated that Zimbabwe's young population, which was born after the country's independence in 1980, is not keen on identifying itself with the values of his country's painful liberation struggle.
Eulogy to Mugabe
"Get connected pa network yaMdara Gushungo," are words from one of the songs that have continued to get generous play on the country's state-controlled television and radio stations. It literally means "get connected to Mugabe's network."
The song is a eulogy to Mugabe and a call on Zimbabwean youths to be part of the veteran leader's empowerment crusade that involves the forceful repossession of foreign owned companies.
But his government was already busy at it since 1999 when it introduced the unpopular National Youth Service programme. Designed for Zimbabweans between the age of 10 and 30, its stated purpose is to "transform and empower youths for nation building through life skills training and leadership development."
The programme has been condemned in the West and in Africa for gross human rights violations on behalf of the ZANU-PF party.
But Mugabe is not alone in this bid to attract youth support.
Professor Welshman Ncube, leader of MDC, has opened a Facebook account where he interacts freely with Zimbabweans youths.
Tawanda Chimhini, director of the Election Resource Centre, is on a countrywide campaign dubbed "First Time Voter Generation" which seeks to sensitize youths about the importance of voting. The campaign makes use of road shows with young local talents.
"Our biggest challenge is to convince the youths that their being unemployed, their failure to access clean water and medical services could be a result of their failure to use their opportunity to choose their leaders during elections," he says.
Chimhini says youths who have spoken to them during their campaigns say they are frustrated for example by the requirements for one to register as a voter.
Besides an identity card, Zimbabwe's electoral laws require you to produce proof of residence which is usually in the form of one's name appearing on a utility bill.
"It is impossible for me to produce a utility bill in my name because I am not a property owner," says Maneta Mbiswa, a 25-year-old unemployed woman. "How do we hope to vote when the system is clearly designed to frustrate us," she says.