NEWLY elected councillor for Mhototi ward 16 under Runde Rural Development Committee in Zvishavane district, Emmanuel Mhike (35) of Zanu PF, knows he is under a lot of public scrutiny because of his age, but says he is keen to deliver.
“Being a young councillor in a rural area is no child’s play because of the socio-cultural structures that exist in our communities,” says Mhike.
Mhike is the youngest councillor in Runde RDC, and the first to be elected at such a young age.
His journey begins in rural Mazvihwa as the 22nd royal child out of 23 children born to Chief Mazvihwa.
He attended Gudo Primary School and Gwavachemai Secondary School, and later Mandava High School for his Advanced Levels.
He read for his undergraduate and master’s degrees in development studies at Midlands State University.
He is a published author, who also pursued a career in community development under Muonde Trust, a community-based organisation.
Mhike says he had no interests in politics until last year, when he was encouraged to contest following the impact he was making in the rural community.
“I did a lot of community and resource mobilisation as an individual and at professional level. I created soccer and netball clubs for young people in my community and even engaged former students, some who had moved to cities and abroad to give back to the community. We managed to construct school blocks at Gudo, Mhototi, Gwemombe Dip and Baradzamwa primary schools solely sponsored by former students. They also donated printers in schools,” he said.
He adds that there is a huge gap in youth political participation in rural communities.
“During my work I saw a lot of youth needs, especially the need for civic and political participation. It felt like political participation was reserved for the elderly in the communities regardless of politics shaping the daily lives of the young people. When I first started my campaign, I faced a lot of backlash and criticism which was mainly centred on my age, despite all the work I had done to uplift the community before joining politics,” Mhike said.
Asked on his role as a councillor and how he plans to fulfill this role, Mhike says he will focus more on representing young people.
“I understand that my major role is representation and I am going to represent young people’s socio-economic needs. This means improving the quality of education through lobbying for solar-powered facilities in schools and bringing ICT to rural areas. There is also need for more secondary schools as there is only one school.
“I will also make sure to link young people with economic opportunities, especially in mining as our community is largely dominated by mining activities,” Mhike said.
He adds that youth participation in community issues has improved following his election as councillor as they are motivated by seeing their peer in a position of power.
“I believe me being a councillor has changed rural communities’ perceptions of what a councillor is expected to do. Usually people approach the councillor with issues which are outside his/her mandate, but I am committed to change the narrative and work with the council to engage communities on civic participation and information literacy,” Mhike said.
Mhike also challenged other young elected councillors, members of Parliament and cabinet ministers to be up to the task and also collaborate with the elders who have been in the political race.
“We have to remain standing and prove the critics. I also encourage my peers in various political administrations to engage those who have been in the field for longer as they know the way better. Some may not be as educated as we are but they surely have the experience we are looking for. It’s upon us to introduce new ideas which are in line with the advancing digital technology and uplift other young people. To young people in my community, you can also instill hope into the future generation despite your age,” Mhike said.