By Kudakwashe Vhenge
As the country today celebrates National Youth Day, which coincides with late President Robert Mugabe’s birthday, youths have expressed mixed feelings over the holiday with some saying there is no need to celebrate considering the challenges that they face everyday.
Initially called the 21st February movement, government in 2017 set aside Mugabe’s birthday to celebrate the contribution of young people to the political and socio-economic development of the nation dating back to the liberation struggle.
In previous years, the day was characterized with pomp and fun-fare as youths from across the country would join in Mugabe’s “extravagant” birthday celebrations.
For the first time, Robert Mugabe National Youth day is being celebrated without him as he passed on in September last year aged 95.
Youth Forum Zimbabwe, a youth based organization has since issued a statement in which they stated that they are joining the country in celebrating the political and economic contribution made by youths on this Robert Mugabe National Youth Day.
The youth organisation however bemoaned a “plethora” of challenges that are currently grappling youths particularly economic challenges, minimum employment opportunities as well as sidelining of youths into the political arena.
“Economically, young people are grappling with unemployment which ZIMSTAT cannot satisfactorily quantify but widely believed by independent statisticians to be over 90%. Opportunities are scarce and graduates have been forced to do menial day jobs to feed themselves. Politically, the exclusion attitude of the old guard has generally continued with a countable number of young people making it into the high echelons of power,” reads the statement.
The organization also urged Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister, Kirsty Coventry to quickly revamp the National Youth policy and the proposed National Youth Commission.
Again speaking to this publication, MDC Youth Assembly National spokesperson, Stephen Chuma had no kind words in respect for 21 February day which he castigated as a ZANU PF day to celebrate the “evils” that were perpetrated by their late founding father.
“As the MDC Youth Assembly it is very clear that we do not recognize the so called national youth day. As far as we are concerned, that day is a Zanu PF day to celebrate its cult leader that is Robert Mugabe.
“The day brings with it a flood of bad memories where as young people we remember the birth of a man who gave birth to all the problems that we are currently having,” said Chuma.
One Zimbabwean youth in the academia Lonias Rozvi Majoni however shared different sentiments as he indicated that during his student leadership days, they fostered for the adaptation of the 21st movement to be a national youth holiday in an effort to breach ethnic and political margins that came with celebrating the birth of an individual.
He highlighted that the day has remained significant to the youths beyond political differences.
“I remember back then when l was a student leader, we called for the 21st February movement to be a national holiday. Our vision was not to please a certain political figure or party but rather to appropriate the day to all Zimbabwean youths towards common understanding beyond ethnic and political differences.
“People should be conscientised towards an understanding that the 21st February movement which only celebrated the former President’s birthday was replaced by the National Youth Day which celebrates all Zimbabwean youths” explained Rozvi.
Ironically, Robert Mugabe National Youth Day was formally recognized as a national holiday on November 24 2017 the same day President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as leader of Zimbabwe following a coup which led to the resignation of Mugabe as President.
The holiday was formalized through the publication of a statutory instrument under the virtue of section 2 of the Public Holidays and Prohibition of Business Act on the same date.