RENOWNED human rights lawyer and National Democratic Institute country director Arnold Tsunga has urged Zimbabweans — particularly youths — to register to vote and actually vote for parties and candidates of their choice in the 2023 general elections, amid indications of voter apathy.
He also urged youths to hold power to count and ensure that the country has strong institutions and that communities benefit from their resources. Addressing Accountability Lab graduates in Harare this week, Tsunga encouraged young people to help build transparent institutions.
The ceremony was held to recognise young minds, also known as accountapreneurs, who have been promoting accountability in their communities.
“The youths are not leaders of tomorrow, but today, especially because your leadership is needed now and not in the future. The burden cannot be postponed anymore, especially in a country where more than 50% of the population is below the age of 19 years,” he said.
“We have only two [voter registration] blitzes that were implemented by Zec [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission], which is our only election body, whether you like it or not. Your responsibility as an individual is to register to vote when you get the opportunity.
“When the election comes, hold your leaders accountable. But the moment you surrender your own opportunities, you surrender doing the core business — which is essentially demanding for accountability in governance and being a social entrepreneur whose work and efforts put pressure on those who have power — whether at local or national government, or even civil society,” Tsunga said.
He said failure by young people to exercise their important civic responsibility of casting their vote results in the capture of institutions by the powerful. “You need to bring these people and institutions to account. But, when you have a country where a climate of impunity is part of the DNA, institutions will be captured.
“We will also have institutions being unable to implement constitutional values to ensure that our good constitution translates into constitutionalism, which means practices that are in conformity with the constitution as the supreme law of our land.
“In terms of elections, if you do not participate, it simply means that you are accepting the status quo, which impacts our governance architecture. You are going to allow it (lack of transparency) to happen, whichever government is in power. So, let us make sure that we deal with apathy,” he said.
Tsunga said lack of constitutionalism results in plunder, culminating in communities failing to benefit from their resources.
“So, with the supremacy of the provisions of our constitution and the Bill of Rights, which is very unique as it incorporates group rights that include protection of the environment, family and obligations for people to benefit from resources embedded in their land, why are we unable to demand and ask? The people benefitting from the extractive activity, the majority of the people, are not pro-democracy. That is why in the media there is a lot on investors who exploit in the extractive sector.
“These people do not impose themselves, but are rather invited, and the things they do destroy the future of your children, and we are doing nothing about it. So, I really hope that with your entrepreneurship, you will be able to give communities an opportunity to ensure that provisions of our constitution are fully implemented,” he said.