Regenerating interest in politics among disillusioned young people will be essential to grow and maintain the Matabeleland political agenda. We need to be creative in how we conduct politics and come up with a programme that offers opportunity for young people, from senior secondary school students, in our territory access to the public policy and political arena.
We draw valuable lessons from the failures of many southern African liberation movements who neglected the essential role of the youth in the continuation of political revolution in our countries. While the liberation movements benefitted enormously from active youth participation, when these movements transitioned into governing political parties they effectively insulated their decision-making boardrooms and processes from the next generation of youths; the governments of the time were dominated by middle-aged leaders, but the next tranche of youths were denied a role in shaping the political future as the arrogance of age could not submit to learn and benefit from youth enthusiasm, idealism, and courage.
Young people’s problems are better understood by young people. We believe young people can affect political outcomes in Matabeleland through conventional and unconventional political participation; evidence from Southern Africa political revolution is unequivocal in that young people are vital in political rebuilding and can be agents of change and provide a base for rebuilding lives and communities, contributing to a fairer and just society.
Inclusive politics is a must; we must set in motion measures that would ensure no segment of the Matabeleland society is left out of the political activity of the region; it would be extremely important to shift our focus onto youth political participation in the face of an overwhelming body of evidence that indicates youth is under-represented in formal political institutions and processes such as parliament, political parties, elections, and public administration in the region.
Wisdom of the old is invaluable and will always be called upon, but we must not lose sight of the fact we have a young population in Matabeleland, and we cannot afford to lose the power, the idealism, the eager passions of youth, and the courage of the young people.
Youth must never be seen as a subsidiary of the older population groups’ political ideals, but an independent and essential segment of society with its unique needs, solutions, and perceptions about how the governance of the region can be improved. The only effective way that responds to the needs of young people, and one that would guarantee that their basic human rights are recognised and enforced is their active and meaningful participation in society and in all democratic processes, including contributing towards national legislation.
Real change will come from meaningful youth participation, and for participation to be regarded meaningful, youth participation and leadership, young people and young people-led organisations must have opportunities, capacities, and full access to and benefit from an enabling environment and relevant evidence-based programmes and policies at all levels.
An enabling environment would be one that sets out to meet a set of minimum standards for youth participation; an environment that is transparent, respectful, accountable, youth-friendly, and relevant, inclusive, voluntary, and safe.
Technology can ensure that practical interventions to gradually give young people insight into national legislative processes and build their knowledge and interest in what is happening in their communities within a safe space is practicable.
It is essential that we invest in technology, a high-quality political socialisation programme and education on democratic process for our young people to develop valuable critical skills and be confident, effective leaders; and we need to ensure young people’s unobstructed, and diligent inclusion in the decisions about the impact of politics on the youth and the future because the future of our land is theirs.
We can initiate a programme in which from the age of 16, representative students will meet virtually once a month to become better advocates on issues they care about, gain valuable leadership skills, and learn about the legislative process.
Young people are agents of change and custodians of Matabeleland’s future; if we are serious about our desire to build a nation that can debate its differences without fracturing communities, giving the youths the responsibility to rebuild our institutions seems a wise call: their political perceptions have not been trodden upon by intra- and inter-tribal and/ or ethnic rivalries, they deserve genuine space to engage in peace building, leading non-violent revolutions, tolerant politics, and using new technologies to mobilise society to bring about change.