Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday addressed a United Nations meeting for youth, challenging member countries to come up with policies that will nurture and empower young people as future leaders.
President Mugabe said youth should be empowered so that they can play an integral role in the socio-economic and political affairs of their nations.
Mr. Mugabe said Zimbabwe had since independence in 1980 regarded its youth as the vanguard of the country, saying "it is of paramount importance the United Nations member states institute policies that will give proper orientation that will shape the youths to become responsible future leaders."
The President said Harare regards education as a priority in nurturing youth and giving young people skills to allow them to contribute meaningfully to the country.
"Member states should adopt a catch-them-young concept such as the education for-free policies my government has introduced among other policies for youth including health in the face of HIV and Aids," he said.
But Mr. Mugabe was facing criticism at home for traveling with a large delegation and hand-picking youth with ties to his ZANU-PF party to participate.
Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, part of the Zimbabwe delegation in New York, dismissed reports organizers snubbed the country’s main youth organizations.
Director Sydney Chisi of the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe said the president should not have favored youths from his party.
Zimbabwe Youth Council Director Livingstone Dzikira said the country’s youth should be given the freedom to talk about issues that concern them.
Tawanda Mbawara of the Free-Zimbabwe Youth initiative said that while it is good that Zimbabwe was represented at the UN at a high level, more youths from across the political divide should have been involved or consulted ahead of the meeting.