CALL FOR ALL POLITICAL PARTIES YOUTH CONFERENCE TO END VIOLENCE
By Sihle Nyathi
There have been numerous reports of people in Zimbabwe who have been murdered, maimed in spates of political violence, but there is the important constituency of youths who have not been factored into the equation. Youths have been used as perpetrators of political violence and in a lot of cases they have been victims of violence. Nothing has been done to promulgate strategies to deal with the role of youths in the violence and possibly curbing their role.
It is in light of this, that youths in Zimbabwe have declared that they are tired of being used as conduits of violence by political parties as this creates a bleak future for them. The youths also called for a National Conference which would be attended by youths from the different political parties. The youths during this conference would discuss their common aspirations and the conference would also be a tolerance building measure for diverse political views. This came out at a focus group meeting that was convened by the National Youth Development Trust.
Youths from the two main political parties said that there are more things that unite youths than those that separate them and there is need to cooperate.
“Youths in Zimbabwe need to be united as they share a common future. They should also be actively involved in creating a brighter future,” said Trevor Murayi.
A lecturer at the National University of Zimbabwe, Mr Gibbs Dube who presented a paper on whether youths are being adequately prepared for the Presidential runoff scheduled for June 27 called upon the youths to organize a national conference which would be used as a method of ending the conflict between youths of different political parties.
The argument that was presented by Sihle Nyathi, the Information and Advocacy Officer of Habakkuk Trust was that it is the role of non-state actors such as civic society to build peace between youths of different political parties given that they are not involved in the conflict.
This is because the different political parties might not be interested in building tolerance among the youths for fear that they would derail the constituency from their agenda. The role of the National Youth Conference would not be to create hegemony of ideas but to chart a new dispensation in the political arena where there is only a fight of ideas and not a physical battle.
In his paper, Mr Dube noted that public media such as the radio station Spot FM has presented youths as being violent or as victims of violence. He noted that there is need to end the stereotypical view of the youths.
A youth leader from Zanu-PF complained about coverage that they received from independent publications.
“The story was disheartening in that the story was completely false and I got calls from the United Kingdom where I was accused of beating someone that I was having dinner with. The other problem is that youths are able to talk to each other when they are sober but the problems comes up when politicians give youths beer and youths become unreasonable,” said the Zanu-PF youth leader.
The youths were advised to come up with their own media given that citizen journalism has become phenomenal. The danger with citizen media is that there are many falsehoods that are peddled. The youths are set to take a short course in story writing so that they can have their own media which can be as simple as one page documents.
The Zimbabwean media was said to have failed to represent the interests of the youths in that they are not giving youths a voice in their stories and they are not mobilizing the youths to take part in electoral processes. The media has reportedly become obsessed with political interests and forget the important political constituency comprising of youths. Youths constitute a sizeable number of the Zimbabwean population and they are the most vulnerable in that they are used for political violence. The media has to mainstream youths in their coverage as they represent the future of the country.
There were also calls for conflict resolution in relation to the youths and for political tolerance. Zimbabwe is facing conflict at this time and in a post conflict era, communities will need to have programmes that are specifically targeted at conflict resolution given that communities have been divided in terms of their political parties. A case in point is that of Regina Ndlovu, a resident of Robert Sinyoka just outside Bulawayo who lost her property during a spate of political violence in 2002.
The sad part is that it is some members of her community who were supporting a particular party who sold her out. After all is said and done, the community would have to live together. In a post crisis phase, the community would have to focus on development and it would be difficult given that there are a number of wounds that would have to be healed. Victims of violence also have to be healed incase they want retributive justice. Victims of Gukurahundi also come to mind because a lot of them will demand retributive justice. In the event that there is no monetary compensation victims of political violence might also take up arms.
There are communities who have managed to survive the conflict currently facing Zimbabwe and communities that come to mind include the Phakamani Community in Matabeleland South who used preemptive strategies to diffuse a potentially volatile situation. The community was able to preserve its peace because there is community cohesion. The Phakamani community is a model that other communities can draw lessons from and possibly help civic groups in coming up with methods of community cohesion as a measure of peace building.
There have been calls for panels such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in a new Zimbabwe but there is need to have healing processes that are specifically targeted at communities and will not be agents of documenting and researching on what has happened in conflict phases but will be healing processes. The xenophobic attacks in South Africa bear testimony to a people who have not been healed of the ravages of Apartheid.
The writer of the article, Sihle Nyathi is the Habakkuk Trust Information and Advocacy Officer and she is the editor of the Habakkuk Trust Blog and the Newsletter.