The death of MDC founding President Morgan Tsvangirai in February and the subsequent rise of Nelson Chamisa as his successor has seen the party’s youth assembly emerging as powerbrokers.
Apart from playing a significant role in Chamisa’s controversial rise that was characterised by allegations of violence meted out against former MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe — the youth assembly once again proved its growing influence by ensuring that its members win during the on-going primary elections.
The MDC primary elections saw bigwigs suffer a rude awakening as they were humbled by youthful candidates who won in most constituencies around the country.
Among those MDC bigwigs that lost to youths are former radio presenter and disc jockey James Maridadi, who lost Mabvuku/Tafara constituency ticket, Glen Norah MP Webster Maondera, Chamisa’s chief of staff, Sesel Zvidzai, Jameson Timba (Mount Pleasant) and women assembly chairperson, Lynette Karenyi (Dangamvura-Chikanga) in Mutare.
Maridadi was floored by youth assembly member James Chidhakwa, Maondera was defeated by Wellington Chikombo, a youthful councillor while Zvidzai lost the right to represent Gweru Urban to youth assembly spokesperson Brian Dube.
Maridadi at one time served as the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson and later as chief of protocol in the country’s inclusive government between 2009 and 2013.
His fall came as a surprise as he was widely respected for his robust contributions in Parliament, where he pushed for media reforms and the impeachment of former president Robert Mugabe, among other things.
Some of the MDC youths who are representing the opposition party during the harmonised elections include youth assembly chairperson Happymore Chidziva (Highfield West), secretary-general Lovemore Chinoputsa (Zaka Central) and youth assembly member Bornface Mudzingwa who won the Bikita East Primary elections.
“We are happy and content with the party’s decision to allocate a 20 percent quota to the assembly; it’s now time for the youths to shine. The Zanu PF government has never empowered youths but with MDC, I foresee a bright future for us youths.
“In every organisation youths are the decision makers but this doesn’t mean that we do not respect our leaders, we respect them but good leaders empower youths like what is happening in MDC.
“The youths of Zimbabwe are the game changer in the upcoming elections; they must take charge of their future. The youths are the majority in Zimbabwe population, so an election without youth’s participation doesn’t reflect the will of the people and will not stabilise the economy,” said Mudzingwa.
He added that it was high time for youths to dismantle Zanu PF in rural areas. “I am going to represent a rural Constituency. In previous elections Zanu PF used to intimidate our parents and as youths we want to stop this, we are ready to defend our parents in rural areas. Most of the unemployed youths are in rural areas and we say to them this is high time for them to decide their future.”
Zanu PF has failed to deliver its 2013 electoral promise to provide 2,2 million jobs by 2018 and youths are likely to vote for the party that is bound to provide jobs.
Zanu PF’s poor economic management in the last five years has led to massive job losses as thousands lost their jobs through company closures.
Despite most of Zimbabwe’s youths attaining different qualifications, including university degrees most are struggling to find jobs.
MDC youth assembly secretary-general Lovemore Chinoputsa said youths have been used for too long.
“Youths are the most unemployed people, we have been used for a long time and this coming election youth are going to make a bold statement that we are tired, we want jobs and a decent living,” Chinoputsa said.
However, the MDC primary elections attracted widespread criticism from both disgruntled party members and losing candidates, who accuse their leaders of abandoning democratic processes.
Not all of the party’s sitting MPs and aspiring candidates went through primary elections, as some were selected through what the MDC leadership has said was via “consensus”, hence leaving many other “unlucky’’ candidates to go through primaries.
This partial process has been blamed for creating some of the chaos and internal divisions.