Zimbabwe election: Why the youth vote matters

Many young Zimbabweans support opposition candidate Chamisa. [DW Photo]

"The youth has been a major part of the ZANU PF campaigns from participating in our primary elections," Marapira told DW. "We have a lot of youth vying to represent ZANU PF and I believe a lot of youths were actually representing the party at ward and parliamentary elections," Marapira said, stressing that their political rallies had seen massive youth attendance.

Generational differences have defined the election campaign. 80-year-old President Mnangagwa is the older of the two main candidates. In addition, ZANU PF also celebrates its 60th founding anniversary in August. The party, long associated with the late President Robert Mugabe, has used the occasion to recall its origins as an anti-colonial liberation movement and denounce the opposition as Western puppets.

According to Farai Muroiwa Marapira, the party attracts a lot of interest from the youth.

"More than 50% of attendance at the end of the rally was mostly the youth," Marapira noted, adding that they are quite happy and hope to continue attracting more youth because the policies of the president [Mnagangwa] that are youth and gender-centered. "The results are there for all to see. The youths are very much a part of ZANU PF, which is a progressive party."

CCC opposition party seeks to woo the youth

Also hoping to clinch the youth vote is the CCC, which promises new beginnings. Forty-five-year-old Chamisa, a charismatic lawyer and pastor, is much more approachable for many young Zimbabweans.

"We are very much impressed by the participation of younger people in our party and our country's politics," 30-year-old Gift Ostallos Siziba, the CCC's spokesperson, told DW. "Those between the ages of 18 and 35 are the major victims of the political crisis in our country, which has moved into an economic crisis." Siziba described the life young people in Zimbabwe as a life with "empty stomachs and a jobless existence."

According to official figures, Zimbabwe's youths constitute about 68% of the country's population and about 75% of the voters. In addition, about 70% of Zimbabwe's youths are unemployed. Siziba told DW that "the solution in our country is to vote for the 'president' [Chamisa]."

Youth in Zimbabwean politics

According to Siziba, CCC encourages youth to participate in politics actively.

The youth will play a decisive role in Zimbabwe's election. [Reuters]

"Look at the positions of parliament members in Harare, Bulawayo and different parts of the province Manicaland. You see the representation of women and young people," Siziba said. "Those were central philosophical state points for the CCC, so we are doing all so that we become a home for the younger people, a home for the oppressed who are in the center of the national democratic project we are executing."

According to Bhebe, the youth rarely has a chance to participate in politics. "The number of youth contesting in the 2023 elections is very low largely because they were sidelined and in some instances elbowed out by senior political party members," the human rights and governance expert said.

"The presidential age limit is clearly stated in the constitution and for that to be changed to accommodate youths with a desire to run for the presidency at a much younger age, then a law reform would be essential. But as long as the youth are sidelined in policy making and governance, their voices will continue to be muzzled," she explained.

However, some of the young voters have complained that they've received unsolicited calls and messages encouraging them to vote for the ruling party. Many don't believe that the election will be free and fair, as many votes in the past were marred by systematic violence and voter intimidation.