National Youth Service Reintroduction: A Promise for Political Violence in 2023

Introduction

On the 13th of April 2021 (yesterday), the Zimbabwean Executive arm of the government approved the reintroduction of the National Youth Service. the government reasons that the NYS programme is “crucial in nurturing young people into becoming responsible and resilient citizens with a clear sense of national identity and respect for national values,” yet past experiences bred violent youths who were largely involved in politically motivated violence and gross human rights violations.

The Zimbabwean National Youth Service was introduced in the year 2021 and suspended in 2007 (seven years after its establishment) due to resource constraints. In February 2015, President Robert Mugabe highlighted plans to introduce ‘compulsory national youth service trainings’ after the 6th ZANU PF Youth League Congress resolution call for the reintroduction of the training programme. During the seven years of NYS existence approximately 80 000 youths were trained from about 150 camps around the country. Regrettably, the NYS graduates gained fame of unsavoury reputation, against the ideals on the institution’s vision and mission.

Ideals for the National Youth Service

Globally, the concept of National Youth Service is increasingly taking a center stage alongside skills education and work as an activity for young people that is constructive in itself and an investment in the future. NYS is generally meant to provide young people with life skills while at the same time inculcating the values of patriotism, national identity and a spirit of volunteerism.

Many countries have different curriculums of the NYS depending on their national interests, geographical locations, socio-cultural and political economies. However, the underlying principle is that NYS should equip youths with civic skills, prepare them for employability, entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods.

Zimbabwe’s Experience with National Youth Trainees

The NYS graduates, over the years, across the country gained the reputation of notoriety. According to the South African Sunday Times, the trainees were;

“used to spearhead Mugabe’s violent policies such as the land invasions, threatening foreign companies and enforcing price controls. They were also involved in implementing coercive political mobilization including forcing people to buy ZANU PF membership cards, voting for the party and attacking opposition supporters.”

Read the full position paper here (5MB PDF)

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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