The Herald (Harare)

11 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Youth Vote Significant

opinion

The proposed Draft Constitution is without doubt the most important document in our nation's history for the young people at the present moment. This is not merely because it sets the standard as to what the Government can and cannot do for the youth, but because of its social and economical impact in allowing for meaningful participation of our young people both in the economy and on our social cycles.

For decades, most 18 to 35-year-olds have had to put their lives on hold because of a troubled economy.

A staggering 95 percent of youth we have interviewed stated that the current global financial crisis has left an irreversible impression on their current and future plans, scaling back on their personal development in terms of education, property ownership and future savings.

Thus it is important to note that a Constitution and a Presidential candidate who guarantees the restoration of ownership and control of the economy is definitely the one youths will vote for.

The significance of a resounding response by young people can be pretty massive.

Back in 2008 and recently in 2012, the sheer force of youth voters in the US finally pushed over to the forefront of public consciousness when it became a crucial component of President Barack Obama's eventual victory.

The economy is the highest priority for all young voters, no matter their political affiliations: of all the issues that have been covered in the Constitution, the youngest voting bloc in our country cites job creation, resource ownership, economic empowerment and improving the overall economic climate such as preferential procurement as its top priority.

A total of 50.1 percent who represent the economically active of the 67,7 percent of young people consider the economy to be the most important issue. Now with the fourth coming referendum insight on the new Constitution and general elections it is important that young people understand their role.

The current Constitution guarantees and has covered ground in terms of redressing the previous challenges with regard to youth participation on empowerment and indigenisation in chapter 2:12 which states that people between the ages of 15 and 35 years-

  • lhave access to appropriate education and training;
  • have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life;
  • are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues to economic empowerment;
  •  have opportunities for recreational activities and access to recreational facilities; and
  •  are protected from harmful cultural practices, exploitation and all forms of abuse.

As young people go to vote in the referendum I strongly encourage that the vote be yes! This is a yes to youth empowerment and indigenisation; it is a yes to equal participation of young people in all circles of life without hindrance.

As the Constitution stipulates the Youth Council shall police government and stakeholders to ensure that all State institutions and agencies at every level take reasonable measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that policies that have been designed to serve the youth sector are implemented.

Taking into account the progressive nature synonymous with young people, the new Constitution to be voted on is just what the youth need at this point in time. Analysing the proposed constitution it represents opportunity, freedom and empowerment.

It is without a doubt just what Young Zimbabweans need going forward as we seek to restore our economic status and our role in the global set up. It is of paramount importance that as young people this time around we go out and vote and that when we vote, we vote with understanding.

Einstein once said "The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defence are the constitutional rights secure."

As we go to vote on Saturday, let us know and remember two things, the current proposed Constitution is an improvement by far from the old and it does not interfere with anything from the current national law that needed to be maintained.

The point is that our current proposed Constitution has become a progressive document, as we all know its creation was a serious debate, and has been looked upon as a device to accomplish many things for the people. It is very critical and key for young people to note that lawmakers make policy decisions based on the electoral makeup of their communities and based on those who actually vote, so [galvanising the youth vote] is the first step in influencing policy.

It is important that the youth get to vote for the constitution if they are to become active members of the nation of Zimbabwe.

Young people have for long not been directly benefiting from Government policy, they have not been benefiting upfront from many empowerment policies and economic development programmes Government has been implementing for the indigenous people because of one particular reason; low participation in electoral processes. Voter registration among youth voters remains lower than the national average for all other age demographics; this must change this time around. As young people we have to voice our opinion!

The youth vote must be heard, the youth vote is here and it is here to stay.

 Innocent Katsande is the communications officer for Zimbabwe Youth Council.

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