In Defence of Youth Empowerment

Source: In Defence of Youth Empowerment

Statement in Commemoration of National Youth Day

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) joins the country in commemorating National Youth Day which is honoured annually on February 21. This year’s commemorations are being held under the theme: “Positioning youth empowerment and development towards Vision 2030.”

Vision 2030 was spearheaded by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to guide the development of the country and it speaks to a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society. This reflects the President’s desire for society to benefit from what is happening in the economy. Youth are a vital constituency in the attainment of a thriving and open society. They provide fresh perspectives and energy to help drive economic development and social progress.  The government must be sensitive to the political and socioeconomic issues that daily impact the daily lives of the youths because they are the future leaders and developers of the country.

It is in this light that the Forum encourages all critical players to adhere to ensuring that youth are empowered as the country seeks to attain Vision 2030. The Forum was disturbed by the excessive and unnecessary use of force meted out against St Faith’s High School students by a member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on 14 February 2024.

On 14 February 2024, students from St Faith’s High School expressed their dismay with the institution’s decision to impose a US$600 mission fund on each student. St Faith’s High School students peacefully engaged the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education district offices in Rusape to register their displeasure. Students were addressed and informed that the mission fund had not been approved by the Ministry and that there was a pending High Court application on the issue before they were ferried back to school. However, as the students were returning to Rusape, a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer, unleashed a dog into the group of unsuspecting students. There is and can be no place for violence against children in a modern and progressive democratic society

The Forum underscores that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance as captured under section 19 of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe. This position is reinforced under section 81 (2) of the Constitution. Beyond the best interest principle – all the other rights in the Constitution apply to children.

The Forum welcomes the initial response by the ZRP via their official X handle posted on 14 February which notifies that the Officer Commanding Police (Manicaland Province) will conduct a full inquiry on what transpired. A deeper look into the circumstances of the case is necessary since there is a clear case to answer on the part of the officer in question.

The unwarranted behaviour displayed by the ZRP officer goes against the ethos, spirit and purport of the Constitution which in terms of section 81(1) of the Constitution guarantees that every child in Zimbabwe has the right to be heard.

In this regard, the Forum strongly presses upon:

  1. the Zimbabwe Republic Police to foster a professional, impartial and accountable police force in Zimbabwe by immediately instituting disciplinary action against the officer in question.