Government must address the previous injustices carried out by the infamous National Youth Service and undertake a consultative process before the reintroduction of the Youth Service.
The undersigned organizations note with concern the reintroduction of the National Youth Service commonly referred to as “Green Bombers” by the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation. The reintroduction in the current political environment serves as nothing but a reminder of dark memories of an ugly past.
The approval for reintroduction devoid of a consultative process with the public is symptomatic of a Government divorced from the realities of its citizens. The introduction of the Youth Service should be tested by means of public consultations. Transparency, justice, and responsiveness underpin the principles of good governance and the decision taken by the Minister, lacks responsiveness to the socio-economic and political needs of the youths. Taking into account the current state of the economy, the Youth Service is not a priority at the moment, it is an unnecessary burden on the taxpayer with zero economic return. The limited national resources should be channeled to where they are most needed.
Historically, the Youth Service has been linked to acts of widespread terror on a partisan basis in previous elections. Given the historical context of violence in Zimbabwe, Gukurahundi, 2008 post-election violence, to the 1 August shootings in 2018 that continue to go unpunished, the reintroduction of the Youth Service is a cause of grave concern. The threat of election motivated violence that results from its reestablishment is a real challenge for electoral stakeholders.
If no steps are taken to address the previous injustices carried out by members of the National Youth Service, the risk of election-motivated violence carried out by its members could be introduced in light of the impending 2023 Harmonised Elections.
The right to vote in a free and fair electoral environment is so foundational to the core values of democracy that every precaution must be taken to protect it. The Zimbabwean public deserves a fair and safe electoral environment.
To preserve the integrity of elections and prevent the eruption of election-related violence, steps should be taken to reverse the decision to reintroduce the National Youth Service till a time that guarantees can be made that ensure that the Service will not be subjected to political exploitation.