Youth groups planning their programmes for 2013 have warned young Zimbabweans to be aware of political opportunists out to use them for temporary gain, as the country gets closer to elections.
The groups say political parties in the unity government have recognised the importance of young Zimbabweans under 25 in the next poll, and this makes them vulnerable and a target for false promises.
The warning came from Sydney Chisi, Executive Director of Youth Initiative for Development in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ), and coordinator Vincent Tafirenyika from the umbrella National Association of Youth Organisations (NAYO).
Speaking on SW Radio Africa's Beyond Protest programme, Chisi said many young people are getting involved in political activities because they are being offered short-term rewards, but they are not part of the national debate on real issues which affect their daily lives.
"Young people are keen on a quick buck, a quick fix. Many joined ZANU PF not necessarily to vote for ZANU PF, but to milk the benefits that come with it. We want to usher in a new system and leadership that responds to the real needs of young people," Chisi explained.
Chisi urged young Zimbabweans to, "reject any MP or leader who says go beat up someone, go burn down someone's house". He said the streets of Zimbabwe are full of young people who have done evil deeds for political leaders and their lives have not changed for better.
He said: "Zimbabwe is coming out of a collapsed economy where nothing was functioning. There was no service delivery and issues of job creation were forgotten, which are central to youth development,
Vincent Tafirenyika agreed that young Zimbabweans have been identified as a vital component to winning the next election, making them a target for political leaders who want to gain more support.
"Violence begets violence. It is a cycle that never ends. So be yourself and don't be used by people. Those who want you to beat up others don't care about your future. An election is an event that comes and goes. Look beyond an election to say, can I hold the politicians accountable for what they promised," Tafirenyika said.
He added: "True empowerment is about broader issues, focusing on quality education, quality healthcare, giving choices to pregnant teenagers and having those who just graduated able to decide whether to get a job or find capital to start a business. That's empowerment."