I have quite a number of international and local life changing events that I have attended, but today I am going to share about an event that determined how I spent 2 years of my life. In the month of June in the year 2017, I was elected to be the National Coordinator of Activista Zimbabwe. Activista Zimbabwe is a youth movement whose purpose is to fight poverty and inequality as a flagship of Action Aid. So on that beautiful day, more than a hundred renowned youth activists from all the 10 provinces of the country gathered to elect the movement’s leadership and I emerged a victor. I am not going to dwell much on that day but I will share how it changed my life through this speech that I wrote as I left the office of National Coordinator.
Revolutionary greetings to the brave and courageous children of the soil who have taken a stand to fight against poverty and inequality at a time when youth empowerment is the buzzword and there is a lot of lip service about the youth bulge without concrete action. We live in times where young people are young people are seen as customers by economists, they are seen as a nuisance by society, they are seen as potential threats by politicians and the civil society merely regards them as beneficiaries of their programs.
Our mentors, leaders, teachers and managers; in pursuit of their own life goals, forget that young people have a breadth of their own. They forget that young people are human beings with hopes and dreams and a quest for not only better and brighter days but fulfilling lives as well. With the tokenism pursuit of participation, they forget that we cannot always build the future for young people but we need to build young people today for the future. Instead of all the negative connotations that make young people look like they have no purpose, we can look at young people as boarderless resources, as agents of change who have challenges that come with opportunities for investment in humanity itself.
But now cadres and leaders, the time is ripe for us to strategically position ourselves. The time is ripe for us to make decisions that will change the course of our country. The time is ripe to invest in ourselves as young people. Before us came daring revolutionaries who set the course for us through sweat, tears and even blood. As we follow in some of their footsteps we should appreciate their efforts in living and working in peace with each other and our environment. Solidarity can never be over emphasized. I believe that it is our last resort, our last train to freedom and our last effort at freeing our consciousness. We coined the Activista Zimbabwe Slogan #YouthSolidarityPower in our inaugural conference in 2017 after realizing that young people are not idle but they are doing their level best to rise above limitations in their different spaces across our motherland; yet the missing link all along has been solidarity.
And through #YouthSolidarityPower cadres and friends allow me to appreciate the leaders who walked a two year journey with me and the inaugural Activista Coordinating Committee. These leaders proved that indeed the missing link was solidarity and young people hold the country in their hands. From the Eastern Higlands of Zimbabwe I appreciate Happymore Chibvura, a leader who taught me to be calm in any storm. Through him, Activista Manicaland led a successful start in the fight against corruption through the Watchdog, an initiative that I hope to see grow beyond the seeds he planted. I also appreciate the resilient and energetic advocate for environmental rights, Emmanuel Manyati, who led the Mashonaland East Activista in realizing the value of black granite and how much young people are losing out from it by not being part of the mining value chain actively.
In the same vein of protecting the environment, Ndlelende Ncube, while coordinating Matabeleland North Activista, was passionate about how we relate with wildlife. Through his leadership, youth in Lupane started important conversations about Urban-Rural exchange as a starting point in creating solidarity in Zimbabwe. Gender is obviously an issue that needs great attention as well. There are two great young leaders who championed gender issues wholeheartedly during my tenure and them being feminist they will always make their efforts a little extra special. Moreblessings the Activista Masvingo coordinator did amazing work around child marriages and Buhlebenkosi Mhlanga the Activista Bulawayo leader worked on menstrual hygiene with great care.
Two other great leaders championed issues around service provision with great ease and these are Abel Sibanda (Mashonaland Central) and Tendai (Mashonaland West). I remember the famous protest when Mash West cdes planted banana trees on potholes in Kadoma. Some of the youngest and yet most active Activists that I met in my tenure were from the Midlands Activista and they championed political pluralism with great enthusiasm under the capable leadership of Nkosilathi Moyo the Human Rights defender. Still taking about being active for a difficult cause, Mat South Activistas worked on Sex Workers’ Rights under Norman Mudadisi’s leadership. Lastly, Activista Harare was a bunch of energy and dreams under the leadership of Sheryl Chigwedere. What stood out for me from Activista Harare was their engagement around the International Day of Volunteerism.
In absentia, I appreciate and respect my outgoing Secretary General, His Worship, the Mayor of Chitungwidza, Cde Lovemore Maiko. I also appreciate and respect in absentia my outgoing Public Relations Point the current Deputy President of the Southern Africa Students Union, Alistar Bantu Pfunye. During my tenure, Maiko always reminded me to take things seriously and panic if there is need. Bantu was the extreme opposite, I remember him pulling me aside to get a beer to calm down in Nyanga after we experienced an unfortunate encounter with a suppressive system. With these two by my side we made a formidable force.
These leaders constantly and quietly reminded me that it is present day volunteers that are actually making change in the world. It is those who work without pay, who will actually leave behind footprints worth noting. It is through the above mentioned leaders that I learnt that we making a difference in the world is important regardless of its magnitude and we need to not tire in participating effectively. The question that then remains is;
“How do we want to participate in our own processes beyond the speeches, the expected outcomes and the activity reports on paper?”
The main discussion young people in Zimbabwe need to have right now is on how we can increase our participation in national processes beyond being mobilized. How do we create spaces, infiltrate spaces, and further influence spaces that will allocate resources to our lives today and to our future as well. Above all, are our meetings and engagements feeding into the African Governance Architecture, the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development goals due in 2030. As Africa the continent, young people are the missing link to moving beyond structures protocols and paperwork. We are the most efficient disrupters of suffering and pain beyond our misharps and shortfalls.
The dialogues that we have need to be backed not just by action but by evidence as well. So I am challenging the secretaries of the movement to maintain an accurate record of the revolution. Most interestingly, the revolution will be tweeted and captured in 360 Degrees HD Resolution. So I challenge the Public Relations officers of the movement to work with due diligence. I am looking forward to seeing the incoming coordinators leaving footprints that will put to shame the current world order through inclusive actions that do not leave behind people because of their gender, tribe, sexuality or region. I am looking forward to seeing more informed organizing that will put to shame the current ideological flaws that condone corruption and abuse of power. I am looking forward to coordination that will celebrate diversity, appreciate genuineness and pave way to the respect of voluntary efforts. It will mean being unpopular, turning down gifts, refusing favors and being called names. But all in all, standing for that which is right for us today and in the future.
Over the years, I have learnt that if you are entrusted with a position of power, allow yourself to dream a little even if the environment is rigid.
Those who plant a tree might not sit under its shade but in the words of Martin Luther Jr we should remain vigilant and plant our tree even if the world ends tomorrow. The struggle continues. #AlutaContinua #Solidarity