Call for better youth policy


With the country churning out between 200 000 and 300 000 school-leavers each year, the majority of whom will not get jobs, there has been increasing debate as to whether the country needs a new youth policy. If so, what kind of policy will this be and in what context should the policy be put? Can it simply be a policy or there is need to adapt it to our different cultures? Bubi Member of Parliament, Micah Bhebhe gives his views on the current debate. The text, which is based on his contribution in Parliament, has been edited for clarity.

We had in the government a ministry that looked after both the youth and the women’s affairs. This ministry was performing exceedingly well. It had its failures. Probably the ruling party, ZANU (PF), had a proper programme for the youth whose projection was satisfactory. Somewhere along the line there was a diminishing perhaps, of the real thrust.

There has been an argument that the youth movement that will perpetuate the culture of this country is not there. I seem to be at variance with this opinion. I do not think that there has been movement among the youth. I believe the youth have been there and they were provided for. Probably what is intriguing to me and other people is what we call culture.

In Zimbabwe there are so many ethnic groups which have different modes of culture. According to the way I was instructed, culture is dynamic to each ethnic group. As such you should allow the young to go into the field and let them perform according to their background. You cannot shape the youth to any size or form you want. There are people with experience; which they have brought with them from their own culture.

If a bigger environment than the environment from which the youth comes is to be contemplated, it must take cognisance of the fact that the different ethnic groups have got something to contribute towards what we finally call culture. There should be variance of performance and a standardised performance by the whole country which must show itself to be multiple in performance.

If we go by what we have been shown from the time we attained independence, you will find that those responsible for what we call culture today have done their best to mould the youth of this culture according to what the teachers or the leaders knew. Nothing more could be taught.

I think that culture in Zimbabwe was wrongly approached because it was largely slanted to those who lead the youth. This was completely wrong in my mind because a Manyika speaking child cannot be seen to do the same thing as a Zezuru, Ndebele, Sotho and Kalanga child. These youths have their different basic approaches to culture. The mistake we made in Zimbabwe was to get one trend of culture and this was dependent on who was in charge.

You find that when youths are gathered the type of dancing is always up and down dance which I do not know where it came from. Il looks like the Sangoma type of thing. That is not cultural dancing. In our tribal groups there are certain performances. Some of them are rituals. Some are for entertainment and some are for special occasions. Even the songs we teach have a significance. There are war songs, songs that were sung when people were preparing for war. We have songs for ploughing and cultivation. Coming to it politically, it is completely naive to say our youth have a vacuum. We have a proper political structure within the party intended for the youth.

Whether the youth did not perform well or performed outside the rectitude of political parameters is something else. But who is to blame? It is those who were given the responsibility to mould and direct the youths curricula.

I remember at one time when the Minister of Home Affairs visited Matebeleland. Because the teachers wanted to impress the minister that they had taught their children Shona songs they performed them in Shona and that was disgusting because the minister expected to have listened to performances in Ndebele just like I would expect if went to Murehwa. I want to hear everything that is typical of Shona or Zezuru. When I go to Mutare I want to see something that is typically Manyika and no appeasement.

What disgusts me also is that Zimbabwe, is a multiracial society where the black people, the white people, the Asian community have got cultures. For years we have not seen the white culture being projected so clearly as to bring the blacks to perform together with white children and so was it with the Asian culture. The coloureds go wherever they like. Those brought up in the black community could perform with blacks and those brought up in the white community perform with whites.

Let us see these young people come together and not leave them disintegrated as they are. IF we are a government worth its salt why has this been allowed? It is highly destructive. People of Zimbabwe will never be a nation.

I don not believe in forcing or coercing people but if they cannot be persuaded, surely I cannot hesitate to say coerce them to release their youths. I know that there is a right for a parent to refuse or allow his or her child to go to certain functions, but when it comes to national affairs, I think we should not allow a parent to let a child inherit that which is going to be destructive to the nation. We do not want to perpetuate separatism for all our life but we want to create a Zimbabwe nation which must begin with Zimbabwe youth.

I believe habits can be corrected but instincts are inert and they maybe difficult to destroy. We must nip it in the bud and make sure that we create a nation that we want. Right now we have difficulties because our youths have not been put together. There has been complete discord. I believe that our government will not be wrong to coerce parents to understand this so that there is a bit of understanding between the youths because they’re the nation of tomorrow.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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