PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has threatened to relaunch the National Youth Service (NYS) programme — feared for producing Zanu PF terror groups, as the 2018 elections beckon, with opposition parties plotting to field a single candidate against him.
Source: Mugabe threatens to relaunch youth service – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 27, 2017
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Addressing guests at his 93rd birthday celebrations on Saturday in Matobo, Matabeleland South province, Mugabe said: “There must be national youth service, I don’t know why we have slowed on this one. We certainly must start the national youth service programme.”
Mugabe is next year likely to face a single presidential candidate, backed by several opposition parties currently engaged in talks for a grand coalition.
These include Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First and Welshman Ncube’s MDC, among others.
Introduced at the turn of the century by the late Zanu PF national commissar, Border Gezi, with the first camp established at Mt Darwin in 2001, the NYS programme churned out several thousand graduates, who came to be known as “Green Bombers” and were accused of gross human rights abuses and brutal crackdowns against opposition activists and supporters, particularly during election time.
But, Mugabe has on numerous forums defended it, saying the training programme was necessary to instil national pride, discipline and moral uprightness among the youths.
But, human rights groups and opposition parties believe the programme is a State-funded platform for Zanu PF youth militia training.
The programme was discontinued a few years ago due to lack of funding.
In 2015, Mugabe told guests at his 91st birthday celebrations in Victoria Falls that he wanted the programme resuscitated soon, and to include O Level graduates.
“We want to get to a stage where every student at O Level has gone through national service training. We want to enhance our national service training,” he said then.
“It is an important training indeed … so we want to build resources towards that,” he said then.