Over 80 000 trained as youth militia

thamsanqa_mahlanguDeputy Youth Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu (pictured) has revealed that over 80 000 young Zimbabweans have passed through the controversial Border Gezi youth service programme. Graduates from the camps have a long and notorious history of harassing, beating and torturing opposition activist

Last week Mahlangu told parliament around 13 950 of these recruits are currently employed as Youth Ward Officers, a fact that has triggered an audit of the civil service payroll by the Public Service Ministry.

In last years bloody Presidential election run-off at least 11 000 of these youth militia were deployed countrywide to intimidate the electorate. While they carried out this violence they were drawing on salaries as civil servants. Youth Minister Savior Kasukuwere defended their deployment in Parliament saying they were youth officers doing work in the countrys various wards. His deputy, Mahlangu however revealed that the programme gobbled US$6 million from the tax payer in annual expenses.

Mahlangu says the Youth Ministry has this year used US$80 000 to try and reform the programme. It will however be hard for Zimbabweans to believe that the youth training can be successfully reformed into one that is non-partisan. Under the unity government deal, the programme has to be modeled along the principles of discipline, tolerance and non-violence. But given ZANU PFs reliance on violence for political coercion the prospect of them genuinely pursuing reforms in the programme are slim.

Newsreel has been receiving reports of deployments of youth militia in areas like Zaka North, Murehwa, Gokwe and Bindura in an effort to intimidate people into accepting the controversial Kariba Draft constitution.

Meanwhile the Zimbabwe National Students Union has criticized the government for wasting valuable resources in the national youth service instead of revamping the education sector. Spokesman Blessing Vava told Newsreel they were disappointed with the focus on the programme when universities and colleges around the country were in a state of collapse and yet students were being asked to pay astronomical tuition and exam fees.

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