Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Call to reintroduce National Youth Service sinister, premature

By Rawlings Magede

I enjoy reading Reason Wafawarova on Thursdays. While many find him partisan and reducible or too angry to give the reader any meaningful nuances or shifts, I have found an interesting transformation in his judgement and analysis of issues.

The notorious Border Gezi youth militia have been used to intimidate and harass opposition supporters while campaigning for Zanu PF
The notorious Border Gezi youth militia have been used to intimidate and harass opposition supporters while campaigning for Zanu PF

This transformation if I may call it, however has been somewhat cautious in terms of not going too far in his criticism of the current ZANU PF government. His transformation has seen him denouncing corruption especially within government or lack of competencies which continue to manifest itself within some elements in government.

For a writer who writes for the Herald, I think due credit especially on being objective must be given to him. His latest instalment last Thursday titled, “A case for national youth service programme”, saw him make confidential revelations concerning the dreaded National Youth Service (NYS).

He chronicles events from the NYS inception right up to its debacle in 2006. He passionately outlines that the NYS service was centred on three pillars – patriotism, unity and nationhood. When one relives the partisan conduct and incidents of violence by graduates from the NYS became, it becomes really difficult to be convinced that the NYS service was really centred on the three said pillars.

If anything, the NYS became a ZANU PF dreaded militia responsible for campaigning on behalf of ZANU PF and crushing opposition dissent in the country. I remember my uncle who was trained at Mushagashe Training centres, who narrated to me the indoctrination and cheap sloganeering that they were bombarded with during the training which brought out aggression and made them detested by the ordinary man.

The pillar of unity on which Wafawarova alleges to have been one of the founding pillars of the NYS, was only rhetorical as he himself even acknowledges that politicians diverted the programme for their selfish gains.

The Border Gezi graduates as they are still known today, were used extensively in the 2002 presidential elections. What even baffles my mind even today was the timing of the NYS. It was started immediately after the 2000 land reform, the referendum and amid a time of popularity by the MDC.

All this raises suspicion of the NYS which was being led by politicians like Border Gezi during his stint as Minister of Youth, a staunch Mugabe loyalists. Honestly expecting Gezi, a Mugabe appointee, to implement a programme in a non-partisan manner, is akin to the old adage of not biting the hand that feeds you.

This is a point that is rarely flagged when analysing the NYS programme. Unfortunately, against a failing human memory, events take advantage of time past to carve heroism out of the most gruesome deeds.

The NYS must be understood within that context where its success or reintroduction should be measured against its work that it carried out on the ground. Wafawarova doesn’t disagree that the programme was hijacked by politicians, but what he fails to do is to analyse that in the event of the reintroduction of programme, will it be implemented independently without abuse by politicians given that our politicians of the day tend to abuse literally anything as long it achieves their selfish ends.

What I somehow find amusing in Wafawarova’s article is his passionate plea to try and cleanse the NYS and blame it on politicians whom he says manipulated the programme. While in the article he chronicles acts of “bravery” that he carried out in trying to depoliticise the programme, it remains suspicious as to why he is making such disclosures now.

Wafawarova as one of the people behind the programme, should even be answerable today concerning the acts of violence or partisan nature of the NYS graduates. Instead of trying to cry foul and trying to appeal for sympathy from the Ministry of Youths to have the programme reintroduced, he must rather devote his energies to try and unpack to us some of the controversies that still dog the NYS programme.

The call to have “to resell and repackage the NYS in a non-partisan way” not only reveals his desire to have a continuation of abuse of the programme but someone who is bent on having a perpetuation of the abuse of such a programme.

In addition, given that the call is being made by someone domiciled in Australia even makes the whole issue a big joke.

The fact that Minister Zhuwao is against or has ignored Wafawarova’s overtures is very revealing in modern day Zimbabwe where factionalism particularly within ZANU PF, might even have serious implications on the implementation of the programme.

For now Wafawarova must continue churning out more revealing articles concerning how they administered the NYS and start a discussion which will allow, citizens to evaluate the misdeeds of some of the graduates from the NYS.

In the final analysis, Wafawarova must however be credited for sparking such a debate concerning the NYS service since it already has a bad image especially when it comes to its conduct during election times. This debate is necessary in modern Zimbabwe where prevalence of peace has implications on development.

Rawlings Magede is a rural political enthusiast based in Nkayi, Matebeleland North Province [email protected]