Youths not eager to participate in polls

“I would like to participate in elections but my vote would never count as there are other people who make the final decision.”

These are the words of Esrom Mangwende, 25, a Harare man who since turning 18 has never voted.

It is a bleak message indeed but one that is shared by many youths according to a study carried out by the Youth in Development Trust in Matebeleland South, Masvingo, Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland East.

They found that many youths do not see any good reason to participate in elections.

“I do not see the reason to vote when the army decides at the end of the day who gets to rule the country. That happened as recently as 2008 when Mugabe lost the elections. Because of the army he is still our president. So why should I vote?” he said.

“With security sector reforms still a pipedream, it is likely that if elections are held this year the army, whose chiefs are Zanu (PF) to the marrow, will use their might to silence the outcome of the vote.

“I know that as civilians our chance to speak is by casting ballots, but it is not the simple issue of ballots. Elections should be held in a free and fair atmosphere where there is no fear.”

No confidence

Tinashe Maunde from Glen View, an unemployed youth, said contemporary politicians did not inspire confidence.

“Look at our MPs, they are worried about their self enrichment. They got $15 000, they have cars and in the ghetto we have sewage rivers and no service delivery at all,” he said.

Corruption is also a deterrent. “Most people are poor when they are elected but as soon as they get into office they start dishing out stands to themselves, so why should I vote to make somebody rich? For as long as politics is a means to wealth I will never vote for anyone,” said Darlington Mhondoro from Chitungwiza.

The MDC-T in 2009 sacked all its councillors in Chitungwiza because of corruption. To many voters there is no difference between Zanu (PF) and MDC councillors.

A study undertaken by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network in 2010 showed that youths (18-30) constitute the highest demographic structure in the country demographic structure.

In its study Youths in Development Trust lists six major reasons why young people do not vote: disillusionment with the political system; corruption; lack of information; doubts that their vote will make a difference; peer pressure and the mechanical difficulties of voting and registering.

A spokesman for YDT said that although not yet registered as voters, many youths were eager to take part.

“Young people, although pessimistic and critical, have ideas and are eager to participate if conditions were to change. Esrom said that he would vote if only the outcome of free and fair elections was accepted by all parties and there was no interference from the army,” he said.

Registering to vote is tough

It is difficult to become a registered voter in Zimbabwe. The requirements are:

• A national registration identity card or passport (driver’s license not acceptable).

• Documentary evidence proving that the applicant is currently residing in the ward/constituency in which registration is being done, such as:

• certificate of occupation/ title deeds, lodgers permit/ card, Rates, water or electricity statement in applicant’s name; Credit store statement showing physical address of applicant, or written statement from landlord, parent or friend confirming the applicant’s residential address accompanied by a house card, electricity bill, rates bill in the name of the landlord, parent or friend.

Rural dwellers need a confirmation letter from the chief, headman or village head, farm owner or mine owner.

Why should young people vote?

• Elections play a vital role in a system of representative democracy. Youth who are involved in the electoral process affirm their support as well as acquire a stake in the system and an appreciation that they, too, can affect politics and policy.

• Voting is the only form of participation in which each citizen has an equal say (one person, one vote). By voting, youth have the same ability as others to exercise political influence or pressure.

• Universal participation in elections ensures the faithful representation of the popular will.

• Young people should vote to develop a habit of voting from the start, and thus ensure high turnout.

• Young people may have political interests that differ from those of older voters. If young people don’t vote, they and their distinct interests are more likely to be ignored or neglected by policy-makers.

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