Zimbabwe-FIGHTING for youth vote between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the MDC party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has intensified as the 2013 general elections beckon, with each of the two coming up with programmes meant to entice the youth.
At its just-ended 13th National People’s Conference held in Gweru, Zanu PF resolved to target the youth through the party’s indigenisation and empowerment programme.
This would include decriminalisation of gold panning, and putting aside top jobs for youths in non-performing parastatals.
On the other hand, MDC-T launched its empowerment model known as Jobs, Upliftment, Investment, Capital and Environment (Juice) which seeks to reverse Zimbabwe’s high unemployment levels, now estimated at over 80%, by reinvigorating the economy.
The youth are the biggest victims of unemployment in Zimbabwe after a decade-long economic meltdown. Between 2002 and 2008, Mugabe presided over the worst hyper-inflationary era in Zimbabwe which led to the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar. The country was hit by critical shortage of commodities including food and fuel.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero says both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have realised that the youth constitute the largest political market. Their vote would obviously be decisive in the forthcoming polls.
“This is politicking for votes,” Rusero said. “Otherwise the youth should forget and smile. They are simply targeted because they form the biggest political market.”
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates, of the total 200 million unemployed worldwide, 75 million or around 40% are young people and Zimbabwe is not an exemption. This year alone, it is estimated that four out of 10 unemployed people will be youths between 18 and 35 years.
About 7,2% of Africa’s youths are unemployed while 46,9% are underemployed, according to ILO.
Statistics by Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency show that of the 13 million Zimbabweans, only 850 000 are formally employed. Youths constitute 67% of Zimbabwe’s population.
The 2010 Africa Economic Outlook estimates that more than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, but could increase to 75% by 2015. Unemployment in the youth can be traced as the cause of the North African uprising that toppled long serving rulers in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia last year.
While addressing a media workshop organised by Zimbabwe Election Support Network in Kadoma last week, MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said Juice was real and would uplift the lives of the struggling Zimbabweans by creating over a million jobs in the next five years.
“It is not a campaign gimmick. MDC will do it. We will attract foreign investors to come with their money and invest in the country and create jobs,” Mwonzora said.
He lambasted the Zanu PF’s indigenisation programme saying it was Zanu PF top officials benefiting, not Zimbabweans in totality, contrary to the MDC’s economic blueprint which “will grow the cake for everyone”.
Psychology Mazivisa, a lawyer who is a close associate to Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere, said the MDC-T’s “empty” Juice was nothing more than a scheme to hoodwink voters ahead of crucial elections next year.
He said Zanu PF was coming up with tangible programmes for the people, particularly the youth.
“Over 20 000 jobs have been created by Zanu PF’s empowerment programme in the past year alone and we expect that number to increase tenfold in the next five years.
“The Zanu PF indigenisation programme has already benefited thousands of young people in Zimbabwe through community share ownership schemes, employee share ownership schemes, the Youth Fund and even the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund,” he said.
He lambasted MDC-T saying: “MDC-T is a master at seducing women and job creation is more than just appealing to voters. The MDC-T thinks it can play politics with people’s lives. It’s all good to say they would like to create a $100 billion economy by 2040 and one million jobs in 5 years. But we don’t know how Juice will be funded.”
Rusero said the coming up of economic policies targeting the youth could not signify a shift in political ideology by both the MDC-T and Zanu PF. Mugabe’s party has been repeatedly accused by its opponents and analysts for using the youth to violently intimidate voters.
“These parties are embarking on politics of the stomach. There is no shift in ideologies,” Rusero said.
Another political analyst Phillip Bohwasi said: “This is political posturing. But besides this, the youth will be the biggest player in every economy.”
Both Zanu PF and MDC-T are fighting to block the youth who have declared their desire to challenge sitting MPs in primaries ahead of the forthcoming general elections, most of them serving ministers.