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Zimbabwe Youth Tackle Violence Ahead of Forthcoming Crucial General Elections

FILE: Supporters of Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change carry the coffin of slain party activist Tonderai Ndira at his funeral in the capital Harare May 25, 2008. The MDC claims that scores of its supporters were killed and thousands displaced in post election violence. REUTERS/Howard Burditt (ZIMBABWE) - GM1E45P1PNJ01

Political parties in Zimbabwe rarely get along and their interactions in the past have been marred with violence.

However, youthful political leaders from various parties are joining hands and taking a stand against political violence in the country and other issues affecting youth.

Lovemore Chinoputsa, the youth secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, said Wednesday the young politicians have a common goal.

“We are representatives of different political parties youth wings, that have started a new trajectory in the politics of this country by coming together to work towards ensuring that as young people we push for a fair electoral field, we push for the participation of young people and also make sure our young people desist from violence.”

Chinoputsa told journalists that younger members of the ruling ZANU PF, and the opposition parties the MDC, the MDC-T, Zapu, TZ and NPP all met last month to set out a common agenda for freedom, justice and equality.

From that meeting, he says, they discovered there is more that unites them than divides them in addressing the needs of younger Zimbabweans.

While organizers of Wednesday’s news conference said youths from the ruling Zanu PF support their call for peace, no Zanu PF members were present.

Munyaradzi Dodo is the editor of Open Parly, an online publication that covers parliament business and other political events. While he says it’s a good thing to have the youth leaders finding common ground, he has low expectations.

“It’s commendable that the young people can come out and say such things in public. On paper all these things look amazing when we are at press conferences and the rhetoric is being highlighted. But the sheer absence of Zanu PF is testament that there are other leaders high up the rank who will be pulling strings. In practical terms these young people act in accordance to their leaders’ voice and actions.”

Chinoputsa says the youth group is inclusive and other political parties are welcome to join the push toward its goals. Zimbabwe is expected to hold national elections in the next few months, and more than 100 political parties have expressed interest to taking part.

As much as 75 percent of Zimbabwe’s population is under the age of 35. Many younger Zimbabweans have long complained that the government ignores their needs, including job creation and educational opportunities. And, at times, leaders from different parties have encouraged younger members to use violence to suppress voters from other parties.