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Thursday, 14 May 2015

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? A generational task for the Zimbabwean youth

By Blessing Vava

The election of Mmusi Maimane as the leader of South Africa’s biggest opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) was received with mixed feelings after his election as the first black leader, of the ‘assumedly’ white controlled party. Maimane’s election has been received with suspicion with the tag ‘puppet’ bracketed over him and that he has been put there to protect the interests of white monopoly capital.

Malema and Maimane leaders of South Africa's biggest opposition parties
However I would not want to waste time debating whether Maimane is a puppet, or that he has no history of the struggle as Jonathan Moyo labelled him, that is none of my business and a debate for another day.  My submission is that Maimane’s election to lead South Africa’s biggest opposition party at the age of 34 is not only historic but an inspiration to the youth in South Africa and the rest of the continent.

Indeed it is a feat that many of his young generation dream of and yet the chances are slim in a world where the youth have for too long been ignored in the affairs of their countries or simply given irrelevant roles.   Apart from Maimane, there is Julius Malema (33) also at the helm of the second biggest opposition party in South Africa the EFF.

There is no doubt that Malema and Maimane, will be at the centre of the youth vote in the 2016 elections, because of the growing calls for political and economic  regeneration by the youth of South Africa. The rise of Malema and Maimane is thus a confirmation that the young people are capable of self-determination and do not need someone to decide on their behalf (future). The more the youth get into these decisions making spaces, the more they influence in pushing for their interests.

We should not continue placing our hopes in the old guard who believe the youth are mere objects of violence and should be used for political terror activities.  Equally not that the old guard is still living in the mantra of the liberation struggle and to them national leadership is a preserve for those with a history of the liberation struggle. 

While we acknowledge the contributions made by the generation of the nationalist liberation leaders, it is not an excuse for failing to transform, adapt to the changing times and focus into the future. A reality that some leaders in ZANU PF are still failing to come to terms with. They are still obsessed with the past, they do believe that the young generation are robots who cannot think or lead. They need to acknowledge that each generation has its own mission. Waging a struggle against a racial oppressive system was no child’s play; it had to be done because that was their generational mission and we can’t continue living in the past.

For people like Jonathan Moyo they need to learn that leadership has nothing to do with the struggle credentials and sadly for his party they are still stuck with Mugabe because they have failed to establish a clear succession plan, with definite dates for their own political exit, moving aside for those behind to move ahead.

That’s the essence of democracy and regeneration of ideals.

The generation of the young people today must indeed discover its mission, it has to be organised. The liberation movements have failed to renew themselves, and it is evident that there is no space for the young people.  The disbanding of the ANC Youth league was mainly an issue of generational gap because of the old guard’s perpetual denial and failure to appreciate the aspirations of the young people.
The formation of the EFF, thus was a signal to the ANC that the young people do not need someone to decide on their future. And Malema and crew have clearly stated that theirs is a fight for economic freedom to fulfil the aspirations of the Freedom Charter.

While South Africa’s biggest opposition parties are being led persons under the age of 35 years, Zimbabwe’s political space is still closed for the young people. Recently a senior ZANU PF official Shuvai Mahofa openly confessed that ZANU PF is being run by old and uneducated people. She also called on the youth that if they wished to be leaders one day to remain faithful to the aged. REALLY?
But to still think that Zimbabwe still needs such type leaders is rather unfortunate and spells doom for the future of the country. Such utterances only proves that the liberation leadership is disconnect with the masses and hence a compelling new covenant with the electorate.
Mahofa-ZANU is being led by old and uneducated people
Therefore, 'generational mandate' has to be seen as a logical process of not betraying the decolonisation project but taking it to the next phase where democracy and creation of opportunities has to be entrenched and enjoyed by the masses of our people. That generational mandate necessarily means liberating the state from being captured by a rapaciously consumptive elite which is largely unaccountable, unresponsive to the people's demands and only interested in reproducing itself as an extracting class. 

The youth have to ask themselves these questions, are they content with being led by old people who are out of touch with our aspirations?
Are they afraid to take risks and challenge those in power? Why are they not mobilising themselves as a generation to fulfil the mission?
The task at hand is generational change. In so doing, there is need to take giant leaps and decisive action without shifting goal posts, it is clear that as a generation, our mission is not yet complete.

Where are we coming from?
The young people who participated at the National Peoples Convention on the 8th of February 2008 in Harare made this declaration in the Peoples Charter:
7. Believing that at all given times the youth, both female and male, represent the present and the future of our country and that all those in positions of leadership nationally and locally must remain true to the fact that our country shall be passed on from one generation to the next, The People state that, in order for each generation to bequeath to the next a country that remains the epitome of hope, democracy and sustainable livelihoods, the following principles for the youth must be adhered to and respected:
a) The youth shall be guaranteed the right to education at all levels until they acquire their first tertiary qualification.
b) The youth shall be guaranteed an equal voice in decision-making processes that not only affect them but the country as a whole in all spheres of politics, the national economy and social welfare.
c) The youth shall be guaranteed access to the right to health.
d) The youth shall not be subject to political abuse through training regimes that connote political violence or any semblance of propaganda that will compromise their right to determine their future as both individuals and as a collective.
e) The youth have the right to associate and assemble and express themselves freely of their own prerogative.

For these principles to be realised there is need to take decisive programmes of action to change our society for the better for generations to come. The emphasis however should be centred on the strong conviction that the young people should be mobilised to play a developmental role in the democratic struggle. The only political solution will be a youthful political alternative whose agenda will be a revolutionary transformation of society based on a combination of ideological clarity and determination. It is equally important to train and invest in young leaders, who have the ability to construct and realize a forward-looking vision for our country and the continent at large.

Blessing Vuvuzela Vava is a Defender of the Peoples Charter. He writes from Chipinge and can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com. He writes in his personal capacity.