Opinion by Taruberekera Masara in Pretoria 

The rise of Nelson Chamisa’s political stake owes much to his popularity with young voters. His message of generational consensus is perceived as truly viable.

This is opposed greatly to the notion held by his adversaries in and outside MDC, that the youth brigade that follows him is brainwashed and is coercively bandwagoned into rooting for him.

It is really an affront to the youth, their right to choose, political assembly and commonly held belief that Zimbabwe is an educated nation. How educated people become brainwashed boggles the mind.

By and large as he was coming into the crowded field of competitors for the 2018 race, though, repeat success was not necessarily a foregone conclusion, Chamisa’s success with the youth now looks durable.

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Those who follow him know what they want.

Chamisa is still leading the opinion polls, he remains influential and many youth-led progressive organizations like ZINASU endorsed the democratic socialist for president. 

The youths have a justification for following him. It is only because Zanu PF is such a visceral assault on the sense that people have forgotten the power of voting for something as opposed to voting against something.

Even today with waning prospects at the political bank the source of Chamisa’s youth appeal appears to be much the same as it was in 2018. Student-debts in tertiary education, escalating health-care costs are still significant burdens for young people, unemployment, lack of empowerment opportunities and lack incremental solutions to the problems affecting the economy and the society.

The youth themselves are clearly saying he is the best candidate to carry their hopes.

Young adults themselves are clear about the case for Chamisa. “Nelson is not our political saviour. It is the movement behind him that will change this country. We are not electing a saviour; we are electing a political opponent who we will hold accountable to meet our demands”, the Generational Consensus leaders explained on their Facebook page. 

Youths in Zimbabwe do not have the luxury of gambling with their vote, because they represent families and children who depend on their choices to carry them through a country that is heavily divided, unequal and a corrupt society.

Youths who are raising young families have no luxury because they are raising children who are exponentially and systematically affected negatively by institutional structures designed to limit their opportunities to achieve their dreams.

It is with such a background that the youth becomes a firewall for Chamisa’s political project.

Chamisa in his campaign trial has repeatedly claimed that, as president, he would ‘build a great Zimbabwe’. Generational Consensus in its statement said “we hope we’ll get the opportunity to hold him accountable to that” 

They must vote the choice that has the best chance to keep up with the issues they wish, the choice that keep their freedom and maybe progress.

And for young women they have to get a choice that fight for them to have a normal life, fight with them for their dignity, ring fence the issues around sexual reproductive health, maternal health care services and to have a gender sensitive national resource allocation.

The electoral field is still swollen, and there are few ways for candidates to carve out a realistic path to the top office. With so many candidates competing for votes, a committed, cohesive bloc of young adults could make a real difference for Chamisa in his quest for the state house occupancy. In most years, youth voters might not have been numerous enough to deliver Chamisa on their own strength, but youth voters are now amongst the key voters in Zimbabwe. 

Young voters do not historically turn out in high numbers, at least not compared with seniors, but 2018 proved to be a different year and a new chapter. Chamisa’s youth support has implications for the general election. A record number of youths registered and casted their votes.

Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) noted that there was a marked improvement in registration by the youth compared to 2013, and especially urban youth.

There is a 77% increase in urban youth registering and the ratio of rural to urban youth under 35 years has declined from 3:1 to 2:1. 

A total of 5,524,188 registered Voters (as of Aug. 8, 2018) average turnout was 45.67%.