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Zimbabwe NGOs Urge Youths to Vote


Zimbabwean soldiers look on as Zanu PF youths march for President Robert Mugabe at a rally in Bulawayo, June 20, 2008.

Zimbabwean soldiers look on as Zanu PF youths march for President Robert Mugabe at a rally in Bulawayo, June 20, 2008.

HARARE — In Zimbabwe, a coalition of youth organizations has launched a campaign urging young people to participate in the country’s elections. The organizations say the "First Time Voters Campaign" or “X1G” will be a deciding factor in Zimbabwe’s next polls, expected by June 2013.

Youths let’s go

We are in Bulawayo at the National Art Gallery where youths launched the "First time voters campaign" or “X1G.” The song fits the occasion:Youths let’s go (and participate in elections.)

Liberty Bhebhe, the head of the National Youth Development Trust which is one of the eight organizations behind the X1G campaign, says X1G is all about fighting voter apathy. They are targeting at least one million youths to register as voters. He also explains why youths in Zimbabwe do not want to participate in elections.

“But you realize that they find themselves in condition of poverty because they are not participating in these processes," says Bhebhe. They really need to be motivated. Some of them will tell you that the electoral framework is not good for a free and fair election. A little more of the youths vote can actual bring the change that young people wants. It has not counted [in] previous elections.”

A reference to past

That was a reference to the disputed 2008 elections. Movement for Democratic Change party leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the presidential vote, but pulled out of the runoff after supporters of President Robert Mugabe launched a campaign of brutal violence against MDC supporters.

Leslie Ncube, the secretary general of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party Youth Wing, attended the launch of X1G. He says young Zimbabweans must actively participate in politics.

"They should clearly map out their destiny through a vote. We also are ensuring that youths engage in peace[ful] means,"says Ncube. "We abhor all forms of violence and we are saying we are a united Zimbabwe, across from all political divide."

Engaging in politics

Nyasha Sengayi of Zimbabwe Young Women for Peace Building thinks the X1G is the panacea to ensure women and youths get re-engaged in politics.

"Young women have not been participating in electoral process because it has not been safe space in the past decade,"she says. "Considering the violence which has been there. We felt that our participation within the First Voters Generation would be space for safe engagement because we are operating on values of non-violence, tolerance and peace, which are very the things which we think will assure young women the need to participate in the First Voters campaign. "

It remains to be seen if Zimbabwean youths will heed the call to vote. The most recent official figures indicate that less than 50 percent of Zimbabweans under age 35 are registered voters.
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