Elections: 21% of youths have no IDs
A NEW study by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) shows that one in every five young people between the ages of 16-34 does not have identity documents, a development which may have ramifications for the next elections.
Zimbabwe is later this year expected to hold general elections and the youthful population is expected to determine the course of the electoral process.
The country’s laws dictate that citizens are eligible to get the national identity card at 16 but are eligible to vote after the legal age of majority which stands at 18. According to ZimStat, the total number of youths aged 16 to 34 was 4 511 823 when the country held its population census last year. Of these 21.1% did not have IDs.
The proportion of population aged 16 and above issued with IDs was 92% for urban areas compared to 84.9% in rural areas. In urban areas, the proportion was 91.1% for females compared to 93.1% for rural areas.
The revelation by ZimStat comes at a time the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is currently carrying out a mobile biometric voter registration exercise ahead of the forthcoming polls.
The United Nations Development Programme (2017) in its , “Handbook for Electoral Management Bodies” acknowledges that youth are the key change agents in a country, and the potential of young people’s contributions to sustainable human development must not be ignored.
Civil society organisations and critics say in the Zimbabwean context, the space for youth participation continues to narrow at a time the demographic group faces a litany of socio-economic challenges.
According to the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network, young people face challenges that hinder them from participating in electoral processes at parliamentary and local authority level such as fear of violence, absence of administrative mechanism to support participation, legal barriers and lack of political will among others.
Other studies have however shown that although Zimbabwean youth are not currently fully engaging in political and civic activities such as voting and attending community meetings, they are however not totally disengaged.
For various reasons, the youth have disengaged from traditional platforms of civic engagement, such as national and local budget consultative meetings, village development meetings, political party meetings and elections.
But they are however engaging in public affairs in alternative spaces which include voluntary associations like youth social clubs and community associations like sporting, savings and gardening clubs.