Scores of Zanu PF aligned youths who had enrolled for the State-run National Youth Service were early this month turned away at a training centre here after the government decided to cancel the controversial training programme.
The National Youth Service, popularly known as the Border Gezi training programme, was revived last year by the then youth minister, Patrick Zhuwao after a ten-year break.
Zhuwao is nephew to former President Robert Mugabe. He is reported to have gone into hiding following the removal of his uncle as Zimbabwe’s leader last November.
However, according to lecturers at Mount View Training Centre in Marondera, the programme was aborted at the centre this month following a directive from Sithembiso Nyoni, the Women and Youth Affairs minister.
“At least 90 students had been recruited to start their three month training this January, but they were ordered to return home after Minister Nyoni gave an order to stop the recruitment and training of the youths,” a lecturer at the college confirmed this week.
“We are now only offering our normal vocational training courses,” he said. The youth training programme was revived last year following orders from Mugabe.
“There must be a National Youth Service. I don’t know why we have slowed on this one. We certainly must start the National Youth Service programme,” Mugabe said last year at his 93rd birthday celebrations.
The youth training programme was introduced in 2000 by the late Zanu PF national commissar, Border Gezi, with the first training camp being established in Mt Darwin. However, the programme was suspended in 2007 at 150 training centres due to lack of funding.
The youth programme has been strongly criticised by the opposition political parties as a plan by the Zanu PF government to train its youths as storm troopers to cow opposition supporters especially in the rural areas.