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Youth vote litmus test for Zanu PF



THE Zanu PF-led government faces a litmus test in the August general election, after it failed to deliver on key priority areas affecting the youth over the past years, amid indications of a considerable growth in the young voter population, a report by independent think-tank Research and Advocacy Unit (Rau) has revealed.


Findings by Rau in a report titled: “Will the youth vote in 2023, for who, and why?”, show that while the number of youth voters has been rising, most of the basic issues affecting the youth have remained unsolved.

“It is extremely rare that governments that make life worse for the citizens get re-elected, and even rarer that they are returned to power with an increased majority: it is a standard rule of thumb in political economy that governments that fail to improve the lives of citizens are thrown out in the expectation that another party will do better,” the report reads.

“Whilst Zanu PF can claim fiefdom over political power due to the liberation war, it is obvious that Zimbabwe’s population is getting younger by the decade with most of the population not alive before 1980 — nearly 70% of Zimbabwe’s population is now under 35 years.

“Most of these young people can only remember hard economic times, apart from a brief period between 2009 and 2013 during the Inclusive Government. Most of Zimbabwe’s young, whether educated or not, can only earn a meagre living in the informal sector, and many have fled the country for greener pastures.”

The report has placed employment, food shortages and poverty among the major concerns of the youth that have not been addressed over the past years.

“Ten basic issues were chosen from the Afrobarometer, and ranked according to the frequency with youth prioritised these as important,” the report reads.

“It is immediately evident that managing the economy, dealing with unemployment, food shortages and famine, poverty and destitution, and reducing the gap between rich and poor through wages, income and salaries are the consistent major concerns of the youth.

“They are less demanding about public goods and services (health and education), less interested in farming and land, and even democracy or political rights. From 2014 onwards, the youth have been clamouring for the government to deal with four important issues: managing the economy, unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity, and in 2023, these have all worsened.”

In the 2018 election, the government promised to create two million jobs over a five-year period, which it has failed to fulfil. With low disposable incomes, professional workers have been seeking greener pastures outside the country.

For instance, the nurse aide certificate has become the new gold, providing an escape route for lowly paid workers in Zimbabwe.

The government has also failed to eradicate poverty.

Zimbabwe, which was the most industrialised nation in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa in 1980 — is now among the top 20 poorest countries in the world — ranking 17th.
Out of those 20 countries, 17 are from Africa, while three are from the Middle East — Yemen — and two, Kiribati and Solomon Islands, are from the Oceania region in central and south Pacific Ocean respectively.

“Whilst education and health are not accorded the same importance as economy, jobs, etc., it is evident that they (and especially education) have become more important in the last decade.

“Furthermore, democracy and political rights remain low priorities, presumably because political trust is virtually absent, and the youth have little expectation that political parties or the government can be influenced.

“Secondly, whilst these might be concerns of the young everywhere, as indeed they are according to a recent study of the youth of Sadc (Rau 2023), the youth of Zimbabwe do seem to have a largely negative perception of the country’s economic performance. This is hardly surprising when the government has not addressed their major concerns,” read the report.

The report says an increase in urban voter population is likely to have an effect on the election.

“It was seen that a small majority of the youth do vote consistently over the years, and more so as they get older and come to grips with the realities of life outside of family, school, and tertiary education. Much greater numbers of the youth state that they voted in the last election, and although this may be greater amongst the rural youth than the urban, it is evident that there has been increased voter registration amongst urban youth.

“However, and despite a majority stating that they are close to a political party, the trend to disclosing the nature of their political affiliation is clear: they are largely unwilling to state which political party they support, and expressed support for the two major political parties rarely exceeds a third since 2010,” reads the report. 

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