Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Youth day. The theme for this year is “Youth Engagement for Global Action”. This theme explores the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching to national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly advanced.
For Zimbabwe, this year’s commemorations are taking place against a background where there is rapid unemployment among the youths. The high rates of unemployment have been exacerbated by economic collapse and high levels of corruption in government. This has seen youths taking to the streets to register their displeasure over the state of affairs. The State has responded to these peaceful protests by conducting dragnet arrests, abductions and torture as a tool meant to silence the youths. This has resulted in the closure of civic space and opportunities for youths to engage stakeholders on key issues affecting them. To date, Youth Leaders such as Godfrey Kurauone and others remain incarcerated for exercising their right to petition and demonstrate. This inalienable right is provided for in Section 59 of the Constitution.
Young people in Zimbabwe continue however, to use micro-blogging sites such as Twitter and other social media platforms to register their frustration on state of the economy,corruption,human rights abuse and the scourge of unemployment that continues to greatly affect their participation in contributing towards ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development.Currently,youths have rallied citizens even beyond boarders and other global citizens around the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter hashtag, which is a Social movement that seeks to rally people to register their displeasure at the gross human rights violations in the country.
Section 20 of the Constitution highlights that, “the State should ensure that youths are afforded opportunities for employment and other avenues of economic empowerment”. This same section of the constitution also compels the state to ensure that youths are protected from all forms of abuse. Given past violent electoral periods such as 2008, where there was total economic collapse and high levels of unemployment, several youths were killed, raped and exposed to cruel and degrading treatment. The August 2018 and January 2019 extra judicial killings also claimed the lives of several youths and left many either tortured or arrested. Failure by government to fully implement the recommendations of the Motlanthe constitution exposes its insincerity to peacefully address or prioritize youth issues without resorting to violence and brute force.
On the occasion of this year’s Youth day commemorations, Heal Zimbabwe implores the government to uphold and promote a culture where youths enjoy their human rights. Added to this, Article 14 of the African Youth Charter compels African Union member states like Zimbabwe to eradicate poverty and ensure socio-economic integration of youths. The right to demonstrate and petition that is exclusively provided for in section 59 of the constitution must be guaranteed and enjoyed by every citizen including young people.