VOTER registration is off to a sluggish start. If the apathy continues, this country will be reduced to a wasteland. It appears young people lack important information on voter registration.
Most of the people — in both state institutions and civil society organisations — who are tasked with enticing youths to register are themselves not young people.
That is problematic. When it comes to youth mobilisation, nobody can do a better job that the young people themselves. There is a generational disconnect between those who are running these uninspiring campaigns and the target audience.
It boggles the mind why anyone would expend energy on voter registration campaigns deployed, in the main, via print newspapers and analogue media. Young people are simply not on those platforms.
To reach out to them, it is crucial to design communication strategies that penetrate the digital and social spaces where youths are predominantly found. But the lack of information is just one of several contributing factors.
Another major issue is the glaring lack of motivation. Young people are anxious about building their lives, but they seem reluctant to participate in politics. When told to register as voters, they are inclined to ask: “How will this help me?” This is where the political parties should shoulder responsibility.
Young people constitute the majority; as a demographic group, they are a force to reckon with and cannot be ignored. Political parties must roll out well-thought-out campaigns highlighting to young people the vital role of participatory democracy.
The proverbial “bread and butter issues” which people are obsessed with in this tough economy are directly shaped by the politics of the country. Citizens must exercise political agency; the quest for a prosperous, just and democratic society cannot be outsourced. Without citizen participation in electoral processes and governance, there is no democracy to talk about.
To find relevance in the lives of young people, political parties must reconfigure and transform into youth-focused organisations. There are too many tired politicians in the existing parties who believe that public affairs is the exclusive domain of self-important geriatrics. The few youths who currently participate in politics are exploited and abused by political overlords.
They are deployed to unleash political violence on perceived opponents and lavished with trinkets in return. We must, at some point, realise that there is a hefty price to pay for political apathy. Corrupt officials continue plundering public funds, economic mismanagement worsens, Zimbabwe wallows in mediocrity and the future of this country is squandered.
Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, has a youth bulge — meaning a large proportion of the population is aged between 18 and 40. We can blame crooked bureaucrats, compromised politicians and a disjointed opposition, but the bottom line is that young people must take destiny into their own hands. Today’s biggest problems are disproportionately affecting the youth.
From unemployment to drug abuse, young people are bearing the brunt of failed Zanu PF leadership. They can either continue watching passively from a distance while their lives are vandalised beyond repair or draw a line in the sand and reclaim their birthright. After all, this is the only country they can call home.