The youth vote has become one of the most talked about issues lately. Ever since Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chair Justice Priscilla Chigumba indicated two weeks ago that about 60 percent of the 5,3 million Zimbabweans registered to vote were youths; that is people aged 35 years and below, the debate has tended to associate this group with new MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa, who turned 40 last month. The implication being that the registered youths are more inclined to support one close to them in terms of age, and thus give the MDC-T an edge over the ruling Zanu-PF.
Despite its seeming appeal, it is a lame argument, which assumes all people aged below 40 have no grasp of substantive issues to vote for besides fake bullet trains, or that they behave like sheep.
It is a cheap argument advanced by people who will defend the MDC-T for its own sake, people who take the grave matter of running a country like a beauty contest where brains don’t always matter. This has been pretty much the way of thinking since the days of Morgan Tsvangirai. It’s enough that it’s against Zanu-PF.
Let’s start with Chamisa himself. Suppose he wins the Presidential election simply because he is young and handsome, why should he prematurely turn his hair grey trying to solve young people’s problems when it was his face, which won the contest? Shouldn’t he sleep ease to maintain its freshness? And then only make facetious comments each time he gets the podium, for his admirers, and then back to bed!
On a more serious level, this kind of debate takes us back to the days of the G40, which we thought were behind us since Operation Restore Legacy last November; those dark days when one could not tell what bombshell the then First Lady Grace Mugabe and her Gang of Three would drop the next minute; days when forces of darkness seemed to triumph over good. The G40’s most distinguishing trait was an attempt to drive a wedge between the youth and adult voters (especially war veterans), and to use the youths for its sinister agenda.
Unfortunately, it seems the MDC-T under Chamisa is trying to reincarnate the ghost of G40; to divide the national vote between the youths on the one hand, and their parents on the other. It is a dangerous strategy. What happens if these divisions turn tribal tomorrow, ethnic the day after, and racial the next?
We are not at all opposed to youthful leadership. We are happy that so many young people registered to vote this year despite the apathy often induced by the opposition MDC-T’s boycott politics and its mantra about vote rigging. The youths this year defied the politics of negativity to register.
Our only appeal is that their choice should be informed by the enduring national interest, not personal gain. We must build on our revolution. We have values, which bind us all as a nation. Those values are cross-generational; they cannot be sustained by dividing children from their parents, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons and so forth.
Aspiring leaders in Europe and America champion the national cause. Their national interests come first. They are not voted into office because they have access to money lenders, instead of investors. They are elected because they talk of policies, which can develop the nation, not because of what foreigners tell them is good for their country. It is America first all the way.
Where we lag behind is that we don’t have a shared vision as a nation. Once we do, and is clearly articulated, it doesn’t matter who gets into power. America and some Western nations have achieved this, and it’s captured in their national constitutions. A leader can be young or old or from the opposition, the vision and national interest don’t change.
The bureaucracy, media personnel, parliamentarians and Congressmen are the guardians of the national ethos who guide the President. They are always mature people.
They know their history, their culture, traditions and founding values. These are transmitted in a continuum from one generation to the next, without dividing the nation between the young and the old, for they all want the good life. Let’s build Zimbabwe, not strife.