There is no doubt that young people across Zimbabwe can play a critical role in, economic social, and politicaldevelopment at a national level. A close examination of Zimbabwe’s history will reveal that young peoplehave been active as agents of social change since the struggle for Independence. However, over time, youngpeople in Zimbabwe have become increasingly exploited as a vehicle for violence by diverse political actors regardless of race, party or ideology.
This is a preliminary report on a research project between the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), the Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD) and HIVOS. The aim behind the study was to examine young women’s reasons for participating or not in the 2018 elections in the context of a pre- and post, matched-sample design. The decision was made to use IYWD as a case study, using its members. This would allow not only an understanding of participation in elections, but also provide IYWD and HIVOS with a deeper understanding of the success that IYWD has had in motivating and mobilising its members.
This builds on previous research by RAU in the 2013 elections when it carried out a pre-post-election study with The Women’s Trust (TWT).1 This research showed that going women-to-women was highly successful in motivating women to register and vote in the 2013 elections, producing an increase in the number of women that stated that they had voted in 2013 elections (79%) as opposed to the 2013 Referendum (11%) and the 2008 first round (27%). It was also found that participating in the TWT workshop was for the majority (60%) an important reason for participating, belying the view that workshops do not have much effects, and, additionally, that “word of mouth” was also seen as important for a significant group (43%).
Drawing on the lives of youth living in precarious conditions, we analyse in this paperthe ways in which the youth in Zimbabwe respond to varied shocks that they face intheir everyday lives. We note that for many years the political and economic challengeshave eroded the capacities of many Zimbabweans, but the impact on the youth hasbeen discernibly high. Yet the youth have remarkably survived the tenacity of political,social and economic challenges. Many people have described this response asresilience. As such we seek to test this aspect of bouncing back in view of social,economic and political developments in Zimbabwe since 2000 and determine if this canbe an aspect of resilience or its just sheer luck. We want to know why this phenomenonis uniquely Zimbabwean? Why did the Zimbabwean youth fail to get to the tippingpoint? What can be learnt from this? We use meta-analysis and direct interviews of thekey informant and individual youth to test our hypotheses that Zimbabwean youthhave an outstanding way of responding to shocks and are able to re-bounce backwithout necessarily being recruited into forces of violence, crime or anarchy.
Social capital has become an increasingly investigated variable in understanding citizen participation, or lack of it, in public life and politics. Whilst there are reservations about the explanatory power of the concept, there are also demonstrations that social capital is a factor that influences communities, lowers crime, and may increase political participation. Although demographic variables do not seem to influence the growth of social capital, at least one study indicates that there are some gender differences (Onyx & Bullen. 2000).There are few studies of social capital in African countries, which is interesting given the strong and central role that women play in communities, and especially rural communities. One study has examined the relationship between social capital and political violence (Bhavnani & Backer. 2007), but the relationship between social capital and active citizenship more generally remains virgin territory. A recent Zimbabwean study, which included social capital as one variable in examining active citizenship, found differences between urban and rural residency in two measures of social capital, intimate and institutional trust (RAU. 2015). However, this study did not examine social capital in the broader sense, including belonging to community groups or attending community meetings, for example.
A democratic state is one in which the government respects human rights, will freely allow democratic activity, and whose law enforcement agencies will try to protect all persons against violation of their rights, regardless of the political affiliation of the people involved. The role of the police in a democracy is summed up in Article 1 of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials as follows:
Law enforcement officials shall at all times fulfil the duty imposed upon them by law, by serving the community and by protecting all persons against illegal acts, consistent with the high degree of responsibility required by their profession.
In stark contrast, a repressive regime with no respect for human rights will disallow ordinary democratic activity, and will use the law enforcement agencies to stifle dissent and opposition. The law enforcement agencies will themselves become the main human rights violators and a source of fear for those being targeted. A state in which this situation prevails is described pejoratively as “a police state”.
The last time the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum issued a specific report concerning the conduct of members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police [ZRP] was in 2003. In that report the Forum made serious allegations about the involvement of the ZRP in torture. The 2003 report was based on reports that the Forum and its member organisations had received in the period from January 2001 to August 2002