Overtime young people have been ostracized and their voices not heard in decision making bodies and in socio- economic and political spheres centrally to their personal development and that of communities.
Statistics indicate that the majority of the Zimbabwean youths are not partaking in development initiatives in their communities. For example COPAC (2012) declares that 22, 58% young people participated in the constitutional making outreach meetings. Youth Forum (2011) adds that from the previous general election held in 2008 statistics indicate that a paltry 18 % of the youths aged between 18-30 years turned out for the elections. This is incredibly low in view of the fact that youths make up about 66% of Zimbabwe’s total population. In essence statistics show that less than 10% of youths managed to participate in each province, a massive indicator of apathy. This gives a hind sight that perhaps there is correlation between participation and having the economic muscle. It suggests that young people will be occupied by other activities that are inclined to survival and bringing food on the table and participation becomes a luxury than a right.
Literature available cite the causes and synopsis of this situation as the payment of gratuities to war veteran which raised inflationary pressures, the government’s involvement in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the implementation of the necessary but chaotic land reform programme, economic distortions caused by price controls and the misalignments of the foreign exchange rate and the collapse of respect for property rights and entrepreneurial freedom. Researchers have proved that the situation of the youths is dire and needs urgent attention. According to the Labour Force Survey of 2011 in Zimbabwe, unemployment rates were highest for the youths, those with secondary education and higher education.
After the advent of the economic down turn as alluded above, the wealth turned into the hands of a few political correct individuals, usually owners use proxies such as the political elite to manage their wealth and as a result they become the core of decision making using power associated with controlling wealth and means of production. This then alienates young people who do not own the means of production to take part and participate in mainstream decision making and economic activity. This explains the predicament of many youths in Zimbabwe.
Limited meaningful measures have been adopted to prepare youths to meet their challenges in life and to resist the temptation to be used. This situation has led to many youths to be indoctrinated with dangerous ideologies thus eliminating independent and critical thinking of youths on developmental issues and finding alternatives to make their lives better. Whilst others become willing pawns in order to earn means of survival. Politically, youths have been abused as pawns to perpetrate politically motivated violence and few youths are groomed to assume leadership positions in communities.
Young people have resorted to illegal gold panning, forced to illegally migrate to neighboring countries to look for jobs, some become hard core criminals i.e. armed robbers, drug dealing, human traffickers, stock theft as means of economic survival.
Social values have been lost as relationships in families are strained due to disintegration, teen pregnancy increase, abuse alcohol and drugs, prostitution, HIV infection and early or arranged marriages. All these vices have affected youth development at individual, family and at community levels.
Despite all these challenges hope is still not lost for the youths; scores of young people still toil day and night to earn a living. I think to retain their lost dignity due to their situation, lost values and broken social fabric, robust initiatives must be adopted to facilitate active their participation and bring about positive change in the lives of the youths.
Academics have suggested that entrepreneurship and self-employment has been identified as a source of new jobs and “economic dynamism” that can improve youth livelihoods and economic independence in developing countries for young people with limited resources, life and work experience. This then calls for supporting policies to create an enabling environment for young people with ideas to thrive that contribute towards sustaining their livelihoods.
There is need to shift from modernization mainstream economic theories to People centered development theory as an alternative to increase the participation of young people in decision making processes and increase their economic participation that will improve their livelihoods. This paradigm shift must be not be done for political expediency but sincere empowerment of young people regardless of one`s racial origin, ethnic inclination, political orientation and preferences.
Youths should be made equipped with knowledge to understand the constitution that gives them power to demand their socio – economic rights from the duty bearers. Support must be provided by the state and non-state actors for example entrepreneurial skill development, support with seed capital and more important the government and other arms.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni