Mugwara, Gretinah Machingura HARARE (Xinhua) -- For
Nigel Sibanda, a doctorate student based in South Africa, the
youth vote in Zimbabwe’s forthcoming harmonized elections is a
possible game changer on the country’s political landscape.
“In the past elections, young people,
notably those in the cities, have been active in online
political activism, but shunning active participation,” said
Sibanda, who will be voting for the first time.
“The youths should reconsider their
stand and take advantage of their numbers demographically to
define the country’s roadmap. Young people have a significant
impact on the electoral outcome provided that they participate
on election day,” he said. “It’s time we transform online
activism into active participation.”
Former United Nations
Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited Zimbababwe last
Friday, urged people to go out and vote on July 30, saying
tweeting and posting on social media is not enough.
Like most sub-Saharan African
countries, Zimbabwe has a relatively young population.
According to the 2012 census, people
in the 18-35 age group was about 3.5 million, constituting 53
percent of the adult population.
According to Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) statistics released in March, 60 percent of
registered voters for the July 30 election were between the ages
of 18 and 40.
Despite having the numbers to swing
the election, traditionally many young people did not vote. The
Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), an independent
non-governmental organization, revealed that about 2 million
eligible young people did not vote during the 2013 elections.
Archlove Takunda Tanyanyiwa,
organizing secretary for Organizing for Zimbabwe (OFZ), a
youth-led civic organization that focuses on mobilizing citizens
for active participation in the community, said the highly
polarized political environment have meant that young people
become spectators of political developments due to their lack of
“One of the major hindrances towards
an informed active and peaceful participation of young people in
electoral processes has been for long a lack of information to
independently make a decision to choose their alternative
candidates of choice,” he said.
Tanyanyiwa, who is also a Mandela
Institute for Development Studies fellow, said with the current
political environment, young people are likely to vote in their
“Hopefully young people will take the
initiative and participate, particularly taking into
consideration that the majority of registered voters are youth,”
This year will be the first time in
Zimbabwe’s history since independence in 1980 that former
president Robert Mugabe will not be on the ballot.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, will
battle it out with 22 other presidential candidates, but his
main rival is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, who heads the Movement
for Democratic Change Alliance.
Mnangagwa has focused on reviving the
economy and job creation, stressed that Zimbabwe is now open for
With Zimbabwe’s high unemployment
rate, according to independent analysts, young voters are likely
to pick a party that will create jobs.
“We are not asking for anything
extraordinary. All I am asking for is a decent job. I just want
dignity,” says 19-year-old street vendor Trynos Shayamano.
Tonderai Chinyamutenhera, a
22-year-old university student activist, expressed confidence in
the current administration.
“ED (Mnangagwa) and his team will
deliver. As young people, we are saying in this new dispensation
Zimbabwe is open for business, under President Mnangagwa,” he
Chinyamutenhera said the age of the
presidential candidates will not be a determining factor for
“It’s not the age of the candidate
that counts. It’s what they stand for,” he added.
Young candidates have also thrown
their hats into the electoral race aiming to capitalize on the
“Young people have said enough is
enough and it is now time to take charge of their destiny.
Silence is no longer an option,” said Duduzile Nyirongo, a
chartered accountant running for a local council seat in Harare.
“My campaign has appealed mostly to
the youths. I speak the language that they understand and I have
even recorded a dancehall song which I sang myself,” she added.
Another young candidate contesting for
a local council seat in Harare, 21-year-old Esther Vongai
Zimudzi, is also aiming to garner votes from the youth.
“It’s easier to engage them on issues
that matter to us as young people and how important these
elections are to our generation,” she said.
Zimudzi said that with the opening up
of the political space, she hopes young people will have their