On Thursday various youth organizations and churches assembled at Kentucky Hotel in Harare where they discussed political and socio-economic issues affecting them, among others.
The meeting, dubbed Youth Dialogue, was organized by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) in commemoration of the youth care week.
It was hinged on supporting non-violent conflict resolution through meaningful civic engagement of young people and consequently promoting their participation in issues of democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic activities and holding duty bearers accountable.
During the dialogue, the youth discussed three specific areas of Economic Justice, Constitutional Democracy and Christianity & Social Cohesion and came up with possible solutions.
On Economic Justice
The attendees established that economic justice is the basic and well-accepted principle of fairness where the consequence of official policies should be the equal allocation of benefits among participants in an economy. For example, implementing policies that reflect the goal of economic justice might involve eliminating discriminatory hiring practices and permitting people to work freely where their business skills are required.
The youth said they should benefit equally from the economy.
Among the problems they highlighted are deterring them from benefiting from the economy were:
Despite various efforts to combat it, corruption persists as a major problem in the country which brings with it significant negative consequences on the economy and society.
Among its major consequences, it hinders service delivery, leads to increased and more serious crimes and vandalism, results in moral degeneration, affects the collection of government revenue, results in a few individuals enjoying economic benefits, hinders the effectiveness of the administration of justice, results in the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer, and damages the country’s reputation and investment potential.
Given the current state of affairs and bearing in mind the best international practices in anti-corruption policy, the attendees suggested the following key policy measures for combating the problem of corruption. They categorize these policy measures as legal, institutional, and social.
Corruption is not only about bribes. People especially the poor get hurt when resources are wasted. That’s why it is so important to understand the different kinds of corruption to develop smart responses.
Power of the people: Create pathways that give citizens relevant tools to engage and participate in their governments – identify priorities, problems and find solutions.
Cut the red tape: Bring together formal and informal processes (this means working with the government and non-governmental groups) to change behaviour and monitor progress.
Use the power of technology to build dynamic and continuous exchanges between key stakeholders: government, citizens, business, civil society groups, media, academia, etc.
Invest in institutions and policy – sustainable improvement in how a government delivers services is only possible if the people in these institutions endorse sensible rules and practices that allow for change while making the best use of tested traditions and legacies – imported models rarely work.
Punishing corruption is a vital component of any effective anti-corruption effort.
Keep citizens engaged on corruption at local, national, international and global levels – in line with the scale and scope of corruption. Make use of the architecture that has been developed and the platforms that exist for engagement.
Asymmetric information refers to situations in which some agent in a trade possesses information while other agents involved in the same trade do not.
Asymmetric information considerations have encompassed all fields of economics and finance.
Recognising that the presence of information asymmetries could be the source of large economic inefficiencies, the youth agreed that focus should be put on the characterisation of mechanisms or institutions that could alleviate the information asymmetry.
The economics of information should open new avenues for research and policy in the social sciences, sure to contribute to a better understanding and management of our economic and social environment.
Young people should create platforms where they communicate and share ideas and opportunities openly.
By depriving young people of information, you’re disempowering them.
Let us utilise legal structures like the Youth Act to capacitate positions that are ours.
Inexperience and lack of collateral can hinder youth who have the motivation and skills to start new businesses. Evidence indicated that liquidity is more of a constraint to young entrepreneurs than on more established ones, the youth submitted.
The lack of credit history and inexperience puts young people at a disadvantage to adults. This is a tricky area as it would not prudent to direct government funds to subsidise risky commercial ventures.
The youth suggested that in order to confront these collateral-associated problems, they can come up with funding models, like crowdfunds.
Nepotism describes a variety of practices related to favouritism; it can mean simply hiring one’s own family members, or it can mean hiring and advancing unqualified or under-qualified family members based simply on the familial relationship.
Dealing with nepotism in the workplace can be tough, especially if you’re receiving the short end of the stick while someone else is gaining opportunities due to what you perceive as unfair favouritism.
Nepotism has a history that runs long and worldwide.
To fight it, the youth submitted that government must digitalise its systems of employing people and remove the human element that is corruptible.
The Idea Of Policy
For many young people, engagement in politics through formal processes, namely government and political parties, is seen as a choice of patronage rather than a method to bring about change.
But young people can express themselves in other ways, the forum submitted.
Youths should assume positions of authority in order to influence policy and protect their interests.
They can also come up with their own Youth Policy.
Idea Theft & Protection
Many young people have great ideas for new products or services but don’t have the means to get them to market and often look for a larger company to help them. In most cases, if the idea is so unusual, many companies will end up stealing it.
To protect the idea, young people should be extra cautious about whom they share their ideas with.
They should also make those company sign nondisclosure agreements promising it won’t steal it.
Without such protection, winning an infringement claim may be difficult.
On Constitutional Democracy
Young people have been victims of skewed systems that have made it difficult for them to take part in governance and contribute to electoral processes.
Politics is typically regarded as a space for politically experienced men, and while women are often disadvantaged in accumulating experience to run for office, young people are systematically marginalised because of their young age, limited opportunities, and projected lack of experience.
As the increased political participation of women benefits society as a whole, the presence of young people in decision-making positions benefits all citizens and not just youth.
Calls were made to political leaders to end tyranny and provide a safe and open environment for everyone to take part in the country’s political and socio-economic activities.
Tatenda Madondo, a participant and spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union, said the political space in Zimbabwe was not youth-friendly due to violence and lack of constitutional democracy.
“There is no constitutional democracy and people are arbitrarily arrested and convicted, and there is no separation of powers in the three arms of the State, and the country cannot be open for dialogue and business if it is not open to its (own) citizens,” Madondo said.
“Politics in both the ruling Zanu PF and MDC Alliance is toxic and there is a need for consultation of the youths in policy formulation. We also have a bunch of politicians who occupy political space without zeal to improve the lives of the people and we have a whole Head of State threatening people when they demonstrate. As youths, we are advocating for the retirement age, not only of civil servants but of political leadership to be reviewed because we cannot have people as old as 77 still ruling the country.”
He said it appeared as though the country was being held at ransom by both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, who continue to play impossible on the issue of dialogue while Zimbabwe burns.
Young people must question the existing systems that pose a threat to participation in the elective processes.
One of the major constitutional barriers for young people’s participation in democratic elective processes has been the age requirements to participate, where according to the current Zimbabwean Constitution, no one can be allowed to participate as a presidential candidate unless they are 40 years or above.
This constitutional obligation has moved democracy backwards considering how other nations have embraced young people’s competence in leadership and the eligibility to contest and lead governments.
This technical elimination and neutralisation of young people, who ironically constitute more than half the population of Zimbabwe is an area that needs redress and an opportunity for young people to challenge the current gender and age disparities.
Youth must be active citizens and should thrust for positions in various part structures.
With political inclusion comes accountability, trust and dialogue; without it comes inequality.
Also, the youth advocated for political retirement age, saying it is a plain absurdity to expect the old generation of politicians to decide what is best for young people’s future when they would not be in that future.
The issue of democratic legitimacy and transparency was also reiterated.
On Christianity & Social Cohesion
Zimbabwe is increasingly becoming a Christian nation. However, we’ve more social problems than ever as institutions like the Church and state security meant to protect us are the ones posing harm to us.
There has been a recent gradual shift from discussions about children as the ‘victims’ of violence to ‘youth’ as a threat to security and stability. There have been multiple assertions that a surging youth population or ‘youth bulge’ combined with unemployment, urbanisation and other factors can lead to violence and most recent analyses of conflict identify some form of youth factor in the generation or perpetuation of violence.
Increasing concern is being expressed about the problem of “the alienated youth” or “the lost generation” or “marginalised youth”.
The youth are even disintegrated, as the affluent fights to own Unplugged feats, while those from high-density suburbs are left to nurse low-end fest like Madirirano.
Zimbabwe also has serious moral problems like corruption and drug abuse which owes much to unemployment.
Young people are also fighting a mental health crisis. The most common problems experienced are feeling depressed or anxious, displaying restless sleep and an inability to shake off negative feelings, which usually lead to suicide.
Sadly there is still a stigma around mental health – and it is still not treated with the same parity as physical health, despite it being just as important.
The youth suggested that collaboration and nurturing a culture of tolerance will integrate the social fabric long blotted by classism and indifference.
The building of community solution centres like rehabs and recreations facilities where addicts, mental health-related victims and unemployed youth can get help and refreshment was also emphasised.
Calls were made also to open up institutions like churches to discuss subjects like sexual education which is often shunned in most religious spaces.
Leaders were also urged to walk the talk in fighting corruption.
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