via National youth service gets thumbs down – The Zimbabwean 16.9.2015
Youths have given the recently re-launched National Youth Service (NYS) a thumbs down, fearing it could be used as a political tool by the Zanu (PF) government.
Government last Thursday re-established the programme at Dadaya Training Centre in Zvishavane, saying it had been re-branded to focus on the development of skills as a way of economically empowering the youths.
“From this group, we are producing a youth that is capable of creating employment and defending the country against any forms of threat. 67 percent of our population are youths and they are our future, they are our leaders and should be developed so that they work towards economic empowerment, which is the backbone of our ministry,” said the new information minister, Chris Mushohwe, who officiated at the launch.
The youth training centres collapsed several years ago as government failed to mobilise funds to keep them going. They had become notorious for churning out militia aligned to Zanu (PF) that were accused of persecuting political rivals, particularly during election time.
Youth leaders told The Zimbabwean the re-launch was done without sufficient consultation and might not be sustainable. While Mushohwe insisted that the centres would be used to economically empower the youths, Youth Advocates Zimbabwe’s executive director, Tatenda Songore, said the NYS agenda remained obscure.
“It is not yet clear what the youth service programme is seeking to attain. My view is that consultations were not done properly and it would have helped if as many youths as possible were consulted before the re-launch. The views of a big mass of youths were ignored and the service may fail to stand the test of time because of that.
“We are still waiting to see how different the new programme is from the earlier ones. We are not sure if the re-launch will bring positive results,” said Songore.
Nkosilathi Moyo, of the Zimbabwe Organisation for Youths in Politics, feared that the re-established centres might be abused to produce another generation of militias.
“It is an open secret that the National Youth Service is a political tool. Government officials may say a lot of things to sanitise the programme but it is highly unlikely that they are well meaning,” said Moyo.
Like Songore, he admitted that national youth service was a noble idea. “Universally, there is nothing wrong with national youth service. It is good to orient citizens and make them productive and patriotic, but in our context, it is used to serve partisan interests.
Difficult to believe
“That is why it would always be difficult to believe that things will be different this time around. We know that the centres will be used to manipulate desperate youths because there is no way they are going to think or act independently after purportedly benefiting from the service,” said Moyo.
Itai Moyo of the Youth Affirmative Foundation said he was not aware of the re-launch as the government controlled Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) was denying it registration. He said ZYC, which he described as partisan, demanded that his organisation change its constitution to remove clauses to do with governance.
“Some of our core programmes deal with democracy and good governance. ZYC asked us to change our constitution arguing that we were insinuating that there is bad governance and no democracy in Zimbabwe,” said Moyo.
John Robertson, an economic consultant, doubted that the youth service would bring economic empowerment to the youths. “The thrust has always been political and there is no reason to believe that the programme has truly been rebranded to include economic objectives,” said Robertson.