COVID-19 and the national lockdown have brought widespread distress. In very unlikely ways, COVID-19 has also presented social, economic and political opportunities that the young people can take advantage of to advance democracy, accountability and human rights. In a very unusual way, COVID-19 has disrupted the political and economic landscapes of different countries through reshaping the political and economic order.
Politically as COVID-19 ravages the world and disrupts the global political order in ways that are unimaginable highlighted by the social justice campaigns occurring globally from the calls of #BlackLivesMatter, it is time for the youth to stand united. The last year has illustrated the power of the rising social and economic justice movements such as #ZimbabweanLivesMatter. In less than 3 months, #ZimbabweanLivesMatter protests led by youths online, shifted public opinion on corruption, socioeconomic issues, politics, toppled high-profile executives and gathered international attention in the quest to stop human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
The COVID-19 times call for responsible youth leadership of an exceptional and courageous kind, as the youth have the responsibility to protect their future. This potentially has a huge political impact in Africa and particularly Zimbabwe where the mean age of the population is approximately 18 years, and youths comprise over 45% of the voters’ roll.
Zimbabwe has its next election in 2023, the young leaders and activists of our times must start to imagine and organize how this election will play out based upon the lessons we have had from Malawi and the United States of America that conducted elections in a COVID-19 context. Redefining the democratic space must be a characteristic of young people as their leadership and activism will be essential for the participation of youths in governance. Zimbabwean youth in particular must see the opportunities born out of tragedy and capitalize on them to assume different leadership roles in the economic and political sectors.
Currently, since the pandemic is on-going it is important for young people to remain present and develop strategies under the COVID-19 environment that allow youths to self-mobilise to increase participation in governance and democracy.
Source: Election Resource Centre