National Association of Youth Organisations
Increasing youth participation in Zimbabwe’s upcoming elections
Since gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has experienced on-going low intensity conflict marked by periods of escalation and political violence. After nearly four decades of power, former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe was ousted in an unexpected military coup in November 2017, and was replaced by his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa confirmed that national elections would take place as scheduled, by August 2018, but has not addressed the issue of a meaningful security sector, media or electoral reforms to ensure free and fair elections. Zimbabwe continues to face problems relating to corruption, human rights violations, unemployment and a stagnant economy and is now at a critical juncture to chart a new course towards a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive future.
The National Association of Youth Organisations (NAYO) is an umbrella body of youth organisations in Zimbabwe. Its members believe that youth have an integral role to play in the development of the nation and that by coming together; more can be achieved through the sharing of resources and strengthening of youth voices on a wide spectrum of societal concerns.
NAYO’s campaign, #LeaveNoYouthBehind2018, focuses on increasing youth participation in the upcoming elections. In the 2013 elections, only 8.87% of 18-19 year olds and 19.55% of 20-24 year olds were registered to vote. Commonly reported reasons why young people did not register were lack of National Identification cards, lack of knowledge of the Zimbabwean political terrain, frustration in the voting process and lack of hope that it brings tangible changes, intimidation, lack of motivation and failure to understand the benefit of voting. Accusations of vote rigging, vote buying and electoral fraud have also led to mistrust in the election process and poverty makes young people vulnerable to being excluded; to manipulation and exploitation. Currently, about 70% of young people in Zimbabwe are unemployed.
NAYO is mobilising youth to vote in the upcoming elections and lobbying for the barriers to youth participation to be lifted. They are working to increase youth participation through mobilisation, civic and voter education and reaching out to youth to register to vote, while mainstreaming peace messages in the campaign to contribute to the creation of a non-violent environment before and after the 2018 elections. They also aim to increase inclusivity by translating information into various local languages and catering for people with various forms of disability. Alongside online campaigning, they organise events such as music festivals, voter hub door to door campaigns, road-shows and sports tournaments where young people can meet, educate each other and mobilize to register to vote.
They are currently petitioning the Parliament of Zimbabwe for the eligible age for holding public office to be lowered, as the current minimum age to become a councillor is 21 and to become President is 40. NAYO further denounced the proof of residence requirement, which frequently prevents young people from registering to vote as most young people don’t own property. Their ability to provide proof of residence depends on their rapport with their landlord or, in the case of rural areas, their relationship with local leaders.
NAYO is both breaking down the barriers to youth participation in elections and tackling youth apathy towards voting and is encouraging a new political culture marked by tolerance, social cohesion and the active agency of youth. Their campaign engages directly with young people, providing vital registration information and mobilising them as more engaged and active citizens, committed to building a fairer, inclusive and more peaceful Zimbabwe.