By Margret Chogugudza
As Zimbabwe heads for 2018 general elections, the citizens are concerned about their safety as political violence has been reported in some parts of Chitungwiza.
These concerns are a reflection of the vivid memory of violence during the 2008 elections which according to the cumulative reports of Human Rights Forum left 6 politically-motivated rape cases, 107 murders, 137 abductions, 1019 cases of assaults, 19 cases of disappearance, 629 of displacements and 2532 violations on freedoms of association and expression.
A critical factor for peace in the 2018 national election is largely the same as the tipping point to violence in 2008’s national election: young people. In 2008, the majority of the people who were engaged in political violence were the youths.
Youths in Zimbabwe are vulnerable therefore; their energy has been diverted towards negative contributions to the electoral process and there have become synonymous with political violence.
The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) shockingly revealed that in the 2013 harmonized elections, only 8, 87% of the youth were on the voter’s roll yet youths constitute 47% of the voting population in our country.
Instead of enjoying their political rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe by voting for the candidates of their choice, young people have often been victims of political processes being manipulated to commit violence before and after elections due to economic challenges.
Zimbabwe has a very large demographic youth bulge, with over 75% of the population under 35 years and this has ramifications for peace and welfare of the people before and after elections. Therefore, the youths in Zimbabwe should play their role in safeguarding and maintaining peace before and after elections for the country to move forward.
The nation of Zimbabwe depends on the youths for development and progress, so if peace must prevail, the youths should uphold peace and encourage tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections.
It is clear also that if the youths who are perpetrators of political violence preach peace among themselves, then the tendency for any disputes of intra and inter political party becomes impossible. Youths all over Zimbabwe should campaign for peaceful elections process.