By Darlington Gatsi
AS Zimbabwe heads to crucial polls, young people in the Southern African country have expressed desire for a quick turnaround of the economy.
Zimbabwean economy, which is currently characterised by a volatile local currency, has become a focal point in this year’s general elections.
“We are expecting that this is our time for a new great Zimbabwe. This is our time for young people to prepare for our future to prepare for the future of our grandchildren. They have been struggling for 43 years but this is the time,” said Lindon Zanga, a 20-year-old university student from Harare.
During the first five years of his reign, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling party Zanu PF has been criticised for failing to steer the economy in the right direction.
Mnangagwa, who replaced long-time ruler Robert Mugabe through a military coup which was backed by street protests in 2017, promised to extricate Zimbabwe from economic quagmire.
Five years later and staring another election in the face, Mnangagwa’s government has overseen an economy with a freefalling local currency which is trading ZW$6 000 against the United States dollar.
This according to economists has rendered salaries of agitated civil servants who in the past five years have staged protests demanding the restoration of purchasing power of their wages.
In July Zimbabwe was recording inflation with prices of goods and services soaring by 101.3% since 2022.
In the throes of the economy lies unemployment with statistics indicating 20 percent of the working class currently occupy formal jobs.
Herbert Muchineripi aged 25 from Zengeza, in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza, who is unemployed despite graduating from a local university is hoping for brighter economic prospects after the August 23 plebiscite.
“As of now I do not have a job but I have a degree. The issue of jobs started from trust and confidence. If the business community has confidence in the leader of the country no one will be afraid to invest in our country. I am very much confident that after August 23 going forward a lot of young people are going to be employed,” said Muchineripi.
As part of his election manifesto in 2018, Mnangagwa promised to create more than two million jobs in his five-year tenure but critics have poked failure in this pledge.
The Zanu PF-led government however holds a different view pointing to successes that have been scored by Mnangagwa in his term, among them refurbishing the Robert Mugabe international airport, construction of roads, and opening of power units in Hwange.
These are some of the scripts that Zanu PF has been riding on in its election campaigns countrywide after opting not to release a manifesto blueprint.
Analysts believe that some of the milestones claimed by Zanu PF in its campaigns have not trickled down to the general populace among them youth whose majority remain without formal employment.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa will have a second bite of the cherry in Wednesday’s general elections.
Chamisa is among the 11 candidates that will be vying for the country’s top post for the second time after his participation in the 2018 general elections.
The 45-year-old cleric and lawyer is challenging Zanu PF’s 43-year stranglehold of power and has promised to deliver economic stability, a cry of the majority of young people.
“To those in Zanu PF, it is not a party issue. Go and vote for your future go and vote go and vote for opportunity, go and vote for happiness. We are going to make Zimbabwe for everyone. Those in the diaspora should prepare to come back home after the August 23 election,” said Chamisa.
Chamisa is banking on the support of young people in Wednesday’s elections who, according to official statistics constitute 75 percent of the voters.
The opposition has been rallying for young people to participate in this year’s election.
Frustration with disputed plebiscites has creeped into young people which has been pointed out as a cause for voter apathy by political observers.
Zanga, one of the first time voters, said the onus is on the young people to chart a new path for Zimbabwe.
“Personally I will stand with protecting my vote. I will stand with making sure that every student is safe in Zimbabwe. I am expecting us as youth to go out in our large numbers and vote and protect our vote ” said Zanga.