Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry last month appointed a new Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) board. ZYC, which is a body that was established by an Act of Parliament to link the Government and youths, had been operating without a board since 2015. In the past, it has been accused of poor corporate governance, prompting the Government to reorganise the organisation. Chartered Accountant Mrs Chiedza Juru was appointed board chair with a mandate to lead the clean-up exercise. The Sunday Mail’s Senior Reporter LEROY DZENGA caught up with Mrs Juru, who gave insights into the organisation’s future.
Q: You were recently appointed the Zimbabwe Youth Council board chair. What is your initial assessment of the organisation?
A: The Zimbabwe Youth Council is a public entity established in terms of the Zimbabwe Youth Council Act (Chapter 25:19), as amended in 2001. This was a move by the Government to register and regulate activities of youth associations in order to increase opportunities for youth empowerment and participation.
The ZYC is an interface between the Government and the youth of Zimbabwe. In terms of Section 3A (1) of the ZYC Act, the following are the functions of the council, subject to the directions of the minister: To coordinate, supervise and foster the activities of national associations and clubs; to ensure the proper administration of national associations and clubs; to participate in national and international youth activities; and to advise the Government on the needs of youths, and, with the approval of the minister, to undertake projects designed to create employment for young people, including fund-raising, marketing and trading activities.
In order to be more effective in delivering on its mandate, I believe the ZYC requires new, fresh, innovative communication strategies that engage youths in meaningful conversations.
We need to ensure all young people are aware of the ZYC, youth associations are registered and that we work together with all youths, and this includes youths in the Diaspora and youths in marginalised communities who are usually an untapped demographic.
We are an interface between youth and the Government, so we need to use every method possible that helps us reach all youths and ensure they are participating and included.
Q: What was in your brief from the minister?
A: As you might be aware, the board is yet to be fully constituted. Eight members were appointed by the minister and an additional seven will be elected from registered youth associations, allowing us to be fully constituted.
However, some of the key aspects that the Ministry of Youth is focusing on is ensuring that we are capacitated to enforce youth representation in all sectors of the economy.
The Youth Bill, which is being drafted, becomes a priority that unlocks all other aspects of the youth policy, as this will be law and enforceable.
Q: As a board, what are your short- to long-term goals?
A: So far, only eight board members have been appointed and the next process is the election of the other seven members from registered youth associations.
So whilst our short, medium and long-term goals will be shaped once the board is fully constituted, I can share expectations from engaging with youth on some of the areas they constantly flag, which, I believe, should form part of some of our goals such as the Youth Bill.
The Ministry of Youth is in the process of crafting a Youth Bill.
The National Youth Policy was recently revised, so now putting in place a Youth Bill ensures that we have a law that helps us enforce areas around youth participation, youth inclusion and empowerment.
So when we are advocating for youth representation in Parliament, for example, or on boards of parastatals, having a law that specifies a youth quota ensures that we can achieve that.
Youth representation on boards of parastatals — We need to update the ZYC database and ensure all youth associations are registered.
That way, we will have a robust system of knowing where all the excelling young people are and what they are doing.
This, in turn, helps us become a point of information for youth opportunities that arise across ministries.
Youth focal desks — We will be supporting the establishment of youth focal desks in collaboration with other ministries.
This will help young people gain easy access to opportunities in every ministry.
Q: Critics often point out ZYC’s lack of visibility, some pointing out that your organisation does not connect with the youth. How do you intend to fix this?
A: We are in the process of developing communication strategies that will harness both traditional and new media channels in order to increase youth engagement.
The ZYC will harness digital media platforms such as social media, digital magazines and brochures to engage with youths.
In addition, a decentralised structure has been approved.
This will ensure that ZYC branches offer representation into all the provinces and young people can have access to and engage with ZYC from their provinces.
We have so far been leveraging on the Ministry of Youth’s officers in all the districts.
Lastly, the ZYC has not had a board since 2015, hence the appointment of a board not only brings in a governance structure, but also different skill-sets of board members that will enhance the ZYC’s effectiveness and visibility.
Q: While young people make up the majority of Zimbabweans, youth representation is not reflected in leadership. What does ZYC seek to do to ensure that there is a 25 percent youth representation quota in all spheres of governance as espoused in the National Youth Policy?
A: Firstly, we have revised the National Youth Policy. The Ministry of Youth is in the process of putting in place a Youth Bill.
The Youth Bill will ensure that we have a law that helps us enforce youth participation, inclusion and empowerment.
One of the issues the Bill should address is decreeing at least 25 percent youth representation in all spheres of the economy.
This will give us the ability to enforce the quota. In addition, collecting data on all youth associations and young people who are excelling in various industries helps us become a source of information to public institutions in need of youths.
So we encourage youth associations to register with the ZYC.
The youth focal desks that are being rolled out across all ministries are a great enabler of information dissemination.
Q: Over the years, the ZYC has been accused of being partisan. What plans do you have to ensure that the organisation becomes accessible to youths of different political persuasions?
A: The ZYC is a non-partisan organisation that represents the voice and aspirations of Zimbabwean youths from diverse backgrounds and political affiliations.
The ZYC is an inclusive body that accommodates the views of all youth associations, student representative groups, political youth wings, minority and religious groups.
The perception that the ZYC is partisan is rooted in the lack of accurate information about the role and activities of the organisation.
So, more dialogue and improved communication channels will assist in demystifying this.
Q: You inherit an organisation that has been dogged by allegations of financial impropriety in the past. How do you intend to clean the ZYC’s image?
A: The establishment of the ZYC board ensures that ZYC has a governance structure.
ZYC board will establish a finance and audit committee to oversee all the financial activities of the institution.
Further, development partners such as UNICEF and UNFPA, as well as the Auditor-General regularly audit the ZYC.
Q: There is growing interest among youths in exploiting national resources like land and minerals. How does the ZYC seek to harness that desire and transform it into productivity?
A: The ZYC has been hosting Youth Chats with various ministers. In an engagement with the Minister of Lands, he indicated that once the land audit is completed, youths would be availed preferential access to land.
The ZYC has also conducted discussions with the Minister of Finance concerning the licensing of informal miners. The Ministry of Mines has been assisting youths and capacitating them.
It’s also important for youth to be well-organised by being part of youth associations such as the Federation of Young Farmers and the Federation of Young Miners.