By Aleck Murimigwa
Voting is a constitutional right enshrined in Section 67(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It states that, “every Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over 18 years of age has the right-(a) to vote in all elections and referendums to which this Constitution or any other law applies, and to do so in secret; and (b)to stand for election for public office and, if elected, to hold such office.”
The Constitution gives every Zimbabwean citizen who is 18 years and above, a responsibility. Voting is more than a right. It is a duty that the young people eligible to vote must satisfy.
It is an obligation. A responsible citizen therefore must live to this constitutional obligation. Hence, the young folks must heed to the voter registration campaign.
There are, however, rules and regulations that qualify one to be an eligible voter in an election as pronounced by electoral laws in line with section 67 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
One must be a registered voter to become eligible to cast a vote in an election. The voter must carry proof of residence and a national identity card for the registration exercise. It takes a few minutes to complete the registration process.
Young people in Zimbabwe account for more than half of the electorate and that makes them a force in the political realms. Judging by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s 2018 stats, the youths form the largest constituency of the eligible electorate.
It follows Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s appreciation of the effects of numbers. “There is power in numbers and there is power in unity.” This reason alone should fire up the young people not only just to register to vote but to also prepare to enter the political rings of contestation.
If one undermines the impact of the young people in today’s world, the Muhammad Bouazizi incident and the Tunisian mass street demonstrations in 2010 should immediately come to mind. Bouazizi, a mere street vendor, sparked nationwide protests after setting himself on fire in protest over oppression.
What followed is the historical Arab spring. Zimbabwean youths do not need to adopt a violent approach but should take solace in numbers.
In today’s Zimbabwe, the youths are the most affected constituency. They are affected by a high percentage of unemployment. This has rendered them idle and redundant. Some youths have chosen to escape the pain of idleness in drug abuse. This is detrimental to their future.
Recently, the government signed into law the Constitution Amendment Act No.2 in which youths were allocated 10 Proportional Representation seats in the National Assembly. This is an indication that the government itself is not comfortable with the outgrowing numbers of young people.
The government knows that young people know that it is incompetent. So, the 10 seats reserved for the youths in the upcoming elections are meant to pacify the spirit of change amongst the young people. It is meant to buy loyalty and submission.
It is a desperate attempt by the government to ease pressure from young people. If there has ever been a time the youths in Zimbabwe should flex their political muscle, it is in the upcoming 2023 elections.
There is also a historical perspective that ought to energize the young people’s base. The late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, at some stage in the history of this country, said, “this country will never die, young people, shall save it.” It is a historical obligation that young people need to appreciate.
The first port of call is to register to vote and contest in the elections. Prepare to assume positions of power.
The ‘young people are the future leaders’ maxim has long lost its lustre. What has gained currency is that they should lead today. This is a mission that yearns for fulfilment.
The determination to wage the liberation struggle against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian rule by the late founding father Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Tongogara and crew, captures what Frantz Fanon in “The Wretched of the Earth” called a mission discovered and fulfilled.
Fanon says, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, betray it or fulfil it.” The Mugabes and the Nkomos of the 1960s alongside a crop of young people, discovered that the black majority rule will not come without a price.
Young people in Zimbabwe should gain from this historical example. Again, there is no need for the young folks to wage an armed struggle against corruption and misgovernance because democratic channels are available. They ought to be exploited for change.
Across the Limpopo River, the likes of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela realised their mission at a young age. The mission was to end apartheid and free South Africans from the jaws of a system that regarded natives as second-class citizens.
Sisulu and Mandela were jailed for years yet they did not drop their mission. In 1994, Mandela finally voted for the first time ushering in a new independent South Africa.
Mandela said: “Young people are capable when aroused of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”
There is also a global example from the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron who became president at 40. Young folks who should also dare to dream. Take inspiration from people like Barack Obama, the former United States President.
Obama was the first black- African American to serve as the US President against all odds between 2009 and 2016. Obama had the audacity of hope. He dared to dream. Young people in Zimbabwe should dare to upset the normal. Rise to the occasion and make a statement through voting