Change is Meaningless Without Young People Involved

Historically, young people are known of their energy and vibrancy in confronting situations and their power is acknowledged both locally and internationally. No wonder, this year’s African Union 2017 Day of the African Child theme focused mainly on harnessing the youth demographic dividend towards inclusive growth and development of Africa.

In Zimbabwe the recent political transition that saw the fall of Robert Mugabe and rise of Emmerson Mnangagwa witnesses little contribution and involvement of young people in the power struggles and direction of the political narrative. The army, top ZANU PF officials and the war veterans were at the centre of what the majority of Zimbabweans and beyond refer as a ‘soft coup’, that fortunately resonated with the interests of the majority of Zimbabwean citizens against Mugabe ‘monarchy’.

The military took the hot seat in challenging the status quo and unlike previous political challenges towards ruling regimes across the globe which are usually pioneered and engineered by young people. Let us look at previous champions of regime change before and how they involved youth as agents of change and development:

The Rule of Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara seized power in a popularly-supported coup in 1983, aged just thirty-three, with the goal of eliminating corruption and the dominance of the former French colonial power . His ascendency to power gave birth to one of the remarkable changes in the history of the African continent. His aim was to develop and Afrocentric economy that is controlled by Africans for Africa. His revolutionary programs for African self-reliance made him an icon to many of Africa's poor. His contributions remain visible in the history of Africa and his vision demonstrates the energy and creativity that young people can have in spearheading change for the good of the people.

The Arab Spring

With the advent of ICTs and social media, young people in Egypt played a pivotal role towards the viral nature of the Egypt revolution. After a long time of discomfort as a result of an increasingly growing youth bulge the needs and expectations of youth increased as government failed to meet its public mandate. For instance young Egyptians developed what was referred to as the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, a coalition of organisations of young people involved in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 . The role played by youth during this revolution thus shaped the narrative and direction of the whole transition and moving forward of Egypt as a country.

The role of ANC Youth League in South Africa

The ANC youth league in South Africa represents one of the formidable youth wing that historically stood for change and independence of South Africans and the inspiration of many across the continent. Its foundation in 1944 by Ashley Peter Mda, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo marked the rise of a new generation of leaders. Their competence and aggressiveness towards the realization of change threatened the South African government on the other hand contributing immensely towards South Africa’s independence. In recent years Julius Malema has been an example of a competent and agent of change, having contributed largely in the demise of Thabo Mbeki, his EFF party have been resilient in making the South African Government to be accountable to its people. The Nkandla corruption case on President Jacob Zuma is an example.

Zimbabwean Liberation Struggle and the role of Youth

In Zimbabwe, young people played an important role prior to the attainment of Independence in 1980. Young girls and boys dropped out of school to join the war of liberation struggle that ultimately brought independence to Zimbabwe. It is such dominant force of young people that brought about the political change that every Zimbabwean envisaged during the Smith regime.

The same roles that yesteryear youth played in bringing about the change and development are still relevant and can be implored in the modern day political economy. Despite the intervention of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in removal of Mugabe, what should worry young people of today is the fact that the same characters who fought for independence in 1980 are still the major players in shaping the political and economic narrative of the country. The role of young people thus remains ceremonial and their bargaining power compromised due to the nature of the change and how it came by. Real change is still to be experienced, change that pushes forward youth to speak and shape their future at the same time protecting the interests of the generations to come.

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