Spotlight on youth participation in electoral processes 

Youth participation in the country’s electoral process has remained a cause for concern, particularly in the Matabeleland region where voter registration has remained low.

The low voter figures are likely to see Bulawayo losing some constituencies during the ongoing delimitation exercise.

This is despite the fact that civic society organisations in Matabeleland tried to mobilise, many particularly youths to exercise their rights to vote.

On Saturday, during a voter education engagement meeting organised by the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development Trust (WILD) some young people who have been involved in voter education expressed their concerns as well as their challenges in convincing fellow youths to register to vote.

Donald Muchemeyi, one of the participants at the event said the situation was even worse in rural areas.

“The challenge we have faced is that most youths like in Lupane where we recently went for a voter education exercise, we invited at least 50 people but only a few appeared. We made a follow-up and we learnt that in remote areas transport challenges and distance is a problem.

Lack of information on electoral issues among youths in rural areas as well as some in urban areas is one of the major challenges which is hindering progress on electoral issues among youths,” said Muchemeyi who is also in charge of information at the National Youths Development Trust (NYDT)

One of the voter educators Sicelesile Mguni said young women were the most affected.

”The participation of young women, we realised how hard it is for them to participate because of the roles they have at home and in the community that make it difficult for them to register. The other thing is the challenge of distance to access the Zec offices, which I feel has also been a hindrance for women to get time to register.”

Silas Silayigwana, a lecturer at the Lupane State University who is also a consultant for WILD on electoral processes expressed concern over the lack of participation by young people.

“We are not seeing youths coming up in their numbers to get registered to augment or boost our statistics, especially in the Matabeleland region, which is cause for concern.. Our clarion call is that youth those who have attained the age of 18 and have obtained necessary documentation you need to take part in voter registration exercise so that you also exercise your rights and occupy yourself with governance issues.” Silayigwana said.

However, Sithembiso Khupe, the ZEC district election officer chose to differ, saying there was an improvement in the number of youths coming to register to vote.

“There is a shift of participation by the youths, we are seeing them coming to register but the actual percentage I can’t confirm because I don’t have the statistics,” she said, adding that engagement platforms were a positive move in improving electoral participation.

“It’s always important to have engagements, everything that we do depends on our stakeholders so if we engage them we are getting ideas and we are sharing ideas. So for all our activities, especially the one that we are going into, the delimitation, we will continue engaging our stakeholders. So if we partner we know that the information that we want to give to the people is reaching the rightful people,” Khupe said.

Meanwhile Tafadzwa Tseisi, the WILD programmes officer said the participation of youths was critical in defining the electoral process.

“Young people constitute a huge demographic of the country’s population and as such it is critical for them to actively participate in the ongoing electoral processes so that they promote civic voter education in their communities as well as fulfil their civil and political rights enshrined in the Constitution,” Tseisi said.

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