Thursday, August 11, 2022

Decision-making processes and youth apathy: Possible solutions


Constitutional Amendment Bill II consultative meeting, Chivi growth point, June 17, 2020


Masvingo City Council
began implementing the mid-year 2020 budget review consultations at the
beginning of September and most of the wards have already been covered but with
a noticeable low participation of young people.

The consultations
should have been held by June but they had to be deferred as the country was
still at a more severe level of the Covid-19 national lockdown.

When the lockdown
became way softer August, conditions became more permitting for the
consultations to begin, but those interested in youth participation in
decision-making and governance processes are disappointed by the underwhelming
involvement of young people.

At the first
consultative meeting held at Civic Centre in Ward 8 on September 07, a total of
57 participants attended, excluding council officials, and that is according to
data on signed registers. Although the registers did not require people to
provide their age details, participants who seemed to be 35 years and below
were seven.

At another consultative
meeting held at Rujeko Hall in Ward 7 on September 12, at total of 26 residents
participated and a mere three attendants including this writer seemed to be 35
years of age or below.

Prior to the Rujeko Hall
meeting, the writer had had a privilege of attending a similar gathering at
Mucheke Hall in Ward 1 on September 09 where about 32 people attended, with 11
of them being young people.

Tatenda Mutemachimwe
(28), a Rujeko resident who attended the Ward 7 meeting, told TellZim News that
the youth seemed to be disengaged from issues of national interest due to the
increasingly difficult economy.

“The youth have
traditionally been apathetic in issues of governance and decision-making but I
think it is getting worse as the economy becomes more difficult. The youth are
most interested in things that bring quick material benefits or issues that
bring entertainment to them. I can never have all the answers but I think those
issues partly explain why young people largely ignore platforms such as this,”
said Mutemachimwe.

When asked whether she
had attended any of the consultative meetings, another Rujeko resident Teclar
Mwoyo (27) said she did not even know that council had such a consultative programme.

Teclar Mwoyo

“I did not attend
because the communication did not reach me. I however guess the chances of me
attending would have been 50-50 even if I had been told about them earlier on.
As some of these meetings are held on work days, it is difficult to attend if
you are formally employed. On weekends, I also have to be with my family as a mother,”
said Mwoyo, who works for Empowerbank, a government-owned and youth-focused
micro lender.

Prosper Dendere (32),
who is a very active citizen in matters of civic engagement, said most young
people lacked understanding on the importance of consultative processes in
their lives.

“I have attended some
of the budget review meetings recently and it was very sad to notice that many
young people did not attend. At one of the gathering, there were only two young
people there including myself. The youths have to be educated that it’s not the
things that bring immediate material gain that matter the most,” said Dendere.

Prior to the mid-year
budget review meetings, there were many other consultative meetings in Masvingo

divisive political influence

At a consultative
meeting for the controversial Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill held at
Mucheke Hall on July 06, and hosted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on
Information and Communication Technology and Courier Services, there were many
youths present.

It was apparent,
however, that many of these youths were mobilised by their political parties so
that they could make partisan arguments for or against the bill.

Known ruling Zanu PF party
youth league members made contributions at the event, and they all supported
the bill in its fullness. They argued that once passed into law in its current
form, the bill would stem social media abuse which threatened to foment chaos
in the country.

MDC youths opposed the
bill on many basis including that it failed to protect whistleblowers and that
it sought to vest too much power in the government-controlled regulator PORTRAZ
by making it both a cyber-security centre and a data protection authority.

“We need more
non-political actors to mobilise the youth to take part in these important
activities because when political parties do so, they are not necessarily doing
it for the national interest but primarily to further their own political ends.

“I think civil society must
have some focus on youths in all their mobilisation activities so that they
have greater control in conscientizing the youth. Many bills that are debated are political in nurture and even if they are not, dialogue on them often deteriotrates to political arguments. We cannot afford to surrender
that mobilisation role to national politics.

“We want the youth to
make free contributions in decision-making processes rather than for them to be
shepherded to consultative platforms where they are made to push selfish
political agendas. That’s tantamount to abuse of the youths,” said MyAge Zimbabwe
director Onward Gibson, a youthful pastor who leads his own church.

MyAge is a youth
organization working for the rights of youths especially in areas of
reproductive health rights and livelihoods.

MyAge Zimbabwe director Onward Gibson

Meanwhile, TellZim also
observed that less youths in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces participated in
the Constitutional Amendment Bill II hearings that were spearheaded by the
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

At one such hearing
held at Chivi growth point on June 17, it was encouraging that women, another
marginalised demographic group, dominated the gathering but it was again a bit
disappointing that fewer youths attended.

digital space as a forum of engagement

Cathrine Mashavira
(23), a runaway and editorial model who finished as finalist in the Miss Zimbabwe
Grand 2020, said there had to be some means to tap into the potential of the
digital space which she suggested was a friendlier platform of engagement for youths.

“As youths, we are more
active on the cyber space. Raising issues on networking platforms could be more
accommodative for us. For unemployed youths to attend a meeting in town, they
have to walk or engage in the hassles of public transport going to an event
where nicely-dressed older people come in big cars.

“That alone could dent
an average youth’s esteem and they will not be confident enough to express
themselves boldly especially if their opinions differ from sentiments of their
older counterparts who by virtue of their better material circumstances will
seem better informed,” said Mashavira.

She also said many
youths feared the severe polarisation of all discourse in the country, more
especially State-driven engagements where debate oftentimes degenerates into the
disparate Zanu PF-MDC binaries.

Melanin Black Queen

“That is where you get labeled
due to the nature of your contributions even if you made them in good faith and
from a non-partisan position. And we all know the implication of being given
political tags in a polarised community especially when you are a young person
who still have a non-political professional career to build,” she said.

There are many civic organizations
like the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) that are working to
advance the greater involvement of youths, who constitute over half of the
country’s population, in the country’s governance systems but many challenges do remain.



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