According to a paper by the Research Advocacy Unit ( RAU) 75% of people living in Zimbabwe are said to be below 35 years old. Youths are therefore seen as a huge political base waiting to be exploited by politicians.
This is probably the reason why former President Mugabe together with his G-40 were advancing the ‘its time for the youths narrative’. It is also probably the reason why some within the opposition ranks and media are pushing for Nelson Chamisa to take over from Morgan Tsvangirai. They argue that he will be appealing to the youth voter since he is a youthful leader.
However figures released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) last year show that only 14% of the total 41% of eligible youth voters had registered in the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration process. These figures point towards an apathetic youth in the country.These worrying figures mean that the strategists of various political parties need to rethink their electoral strategies and tactics.
We have already seen the ruling party rejecting the youth narrative opting for the generation that went to war. It is also worth noting that the majority of people who thronged the streets to support the military intervention against President Mugabe could have been the youths if the images on the internet are anything to go by. It is also worth noting that these youths marched against G-40 which claimed to be advancing the political and economic interests of the youths. All along some of the youths have been supporting the G-40 faction.
This is probably because these youths lack real political consciousness. The majority lack political awareness and are therefore fodder for manipulation by political players. In politics it is dangerous to place any hope in a demographic group that is politically aloof or not grounded in any real political persuasion.
In my opinion the average youth is materialistic in nature and easily drawn to politics of the stomach. Such a group of potential voters is more drawn to the candidate who controls the patronage system. Mnangagwa recently addressed a town hall meeting organised by a youth group calling itself Global Shapers. It doesn’t need a rocket scientist that this meeting was all about economics. Youths are keen to network with leaders who they feel can open opportunities for them
One needs to analyse how the youths who were ready to die for Mugabe quickly abandoned him and threw their weight to the military and Emerson Mnangagwa. Such youths are certainly not the vanguards of a struggle and cannot be trusted as a political base.
The opposition must not bank on the vote of the youths simply on the untested claims that these youths want jobs without investing in the political education of these youths..The youths that want jobs have left the country and the majority that have remained seem content with their way of life as dealers or in their stations in life.
In my opinion it is a grave political risk to put all eggs in the youth vote basket. The youth vote is one for the future but even then a lot of investment will need to be made in political education by any party which seeks to tap into the youth vote.
More comprehensive studies need to be taken and more empirical evidence generated particularly in voter behavior before wholesome political strategies are adopted and implemented on the basis of speculation and wishful thinking.