Ignorance, Lack of Documents Behind Youth Voter Apathy

As Zimbabwe approaches the much anticipated 2023 elections, voter apathy among the nation’s youths remains a cause for concern. Investigations by this publication unearthed the top two reasons of voter apathy among young people as the lack of sufficient information on the process and more crucially, the difficulty in accessing identity documents necessary for registering to vote in Zimbabwe.

Nqobizitha Zitha, a youth said, “The chief reason why most young people do not participate in the election process is lack of information and understanding of the importance of such processes. Some of our peers are not even aware that voter registration is open and on-going,” he said.

Zitha stressed the importance of enlightening and encouraging young people to register to vote but showed little confidence in the drivers of youth initiatives meant to rally youths to register for voting.

“I have noticed that, in most cases people leading the so-called youths initiatives are old people who have no knowledge of how to lure young people into showing interest and take part in such processes as voting,” he said.He added that the difficulty in accessing requisite documents such as birth certificates and national identity cards is militating against efforts to get youths registered.

Another youth, Nyasha Goredema made suggestions on what could be done to close the information gap with regards voting. He urged stakeholders to take advantage of the digital space in order to conscientise young people on voting.

“We can increase civic education on platforms such as WhatsApp groups with discussions on voter registration. There were 14.76 million mobile connections in Zimbabwe by January 2021 . Let’s not underestimate the power of the digital space. We should embrace it and and use it to our advantage,” she said.

Goredema took swipe at citizens who call youths names, while arguing that such branding of youths is counterproductive and that efforts must be channeled towards refocusing the youths on important issues. “We need to speak about bread and butter issues directly affecting the youth in a non-politicised manner. We get tired of people who call us ‘unfocused’, among other expletives. A better approach will limit voter fatigue”, she said.

In a bid to curtail voter apathy among the youth, several initiatives have been launched. One such initiative is Project Vote 263 which is driven by a group of vibrant youths who came together and volunteered to push the gospel of voter registration under the hashtag #RegisterToVoteZW.

The National Spokesperson for Project Vote 263, Brendon Arnold Malaba revealed that the project first saw the light of day this year in Chitungwiza before cascading to other towns and cities.Malaba said the decision to assist youths with the registration process was birthed by the realisation that many were either unaware of the process or simply lacked motivation.

“This initiative started in May this year when we visited Chitungwiza and staged an hour long campaign encouraging people to register to vote. We realised that a lot of young people were either unaware of how to go about the process or they were simply not motivated enough to register to vote,” said Malaba.

While acknowledging that the overall response can be much better, Malaba singled out the positive response from Bulawayo youths whom he said are heeding the call.

“I must say youths in Bulawayo have been fantastic to work with. At the moment the response rate is not that high but we are really excited that there are youths expressing a desire to vote,” he said.

According to Malaba, the lack of resources is crippling Project Vote 263’s work.

“We mobilise young people as well as others who have people they wish to assist with the registration process. Once they have organised themselves they then contact us and we assist each other. We have selected days for each province where we offer transport to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) offices. Individuals only need to bring requisite documents for registration.Due to a dearth of resources as well as lockdown measures, we do not have the capacity to move from province to province but we have managed to set up structures within the provinces starting with Harare and Bulawayo metropolitan provinces,” said Malaba.

Trinity Project Programs Officer Blessing Nyoni reiterated the importance of identity documents in ensuring that youths enjoy their constitutional rights.She said her organisation has so far assisted over 3 000 youths towards accessing identity documents.

“To date, we have assisted 3 204 youths to access identity documents, 2 180 of these are female while 1 024 are male. The number is increasing as birth registration is key to nationality and registering to vote in Zimbabwe,” she said.

Nyoni however said youths were still facing a myriad of challenges when it comes to accessing identity documents.

“Some of the challenges are as follows: Descendants of Gukurahundi victims do not have any documents to show who their parents are; the loss and lack of health records; births through home delivery; birth as a result of sexual violation (rape)…these challenges make it difficult for affected youths to access documents. Compounding these challenges are the prohibitive distances that have to be travelled to access the Registrar Offices especially in rural area,” she said.

The youth vote or lack thereof is expected to have a big say in the upcoming election. Recently in neighbouring Zambia, four million young people between the ages of 18 to 24 registered to vote in a historic plebiscite.

Source: Community Podium

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