July 30: The power of first-time voters

As Zimbabweans vote tomorrow, most of the people in the queues are likely to be first-time voters, and observers feel they may determine who becomes the country’s next leader.

By Lulu Brenda Harris

According to the 2018 final voters roll compiled by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), young people between the ages of 18 and 22 make up the highest number of registered voters.

Although census data shows that there are over 1,2 million eligible voters in the 18 to 22 age group, only 663 930 of them are registered to vote.

This show an upsurge from 2013, where only 140 740 were on the voters roll, but 2018 statistics indicate an increase of 372%.

The 2018 final voters roll contains 5 683 936 registrants, with women representing the majority of voters and the average age of registrants is 40,2 years.

According to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, by merely looking at the voters roll statistics, it is clear that more first-time voters will turn up to vote compared to previous elections.

The increased number of youths on the voters roll did not come easy though.

It was part of the groundwork laid through social media campaigns online, social movements, offline by a variety of youth activists, in and outside civic and political organisations,

Analysts said young people had to vote with the same enthusiasm as other generations if they are to make a difference in this election.

“Pushed by unemployment, an unstable economy and the impossibility of fulfilling their dreams under the current regime, the youth are part of a better future that we Zimbabweans ought to be living. Therefore, we urge the young to thoughtfully and deliberately vote,” said Unemployed and Vulnerable People’s Association of Zimbabwe director Vusumuzi Ndlovu.

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Constitution Alliance founding director Abigail Mupambi praised youths for rising to the challenge and urged them to turn up in their large numbers to vote.

“We want to tell the 18 to 22 age group that as you vote on Monday (tomorrow), be free to choose a leader of your choice,” she said.

“I want to believe what pushed them to say we will be first-time voters is exactly what will direct them to make the right choice.

“As an organisation that pushes for constitutionalism, we want to say to the youth, the future is yours and they must own that struggle.

“The young of today have to understand that the voting to be done is beyond an ‘X’.

“It will be the transfer of power and it will be the moment, the youth entrust a system to deliver their needs.

“Voting this time may give the young and the old generation what they have always hoped for.”

Women of Zimbabwe Arise leader Jenni Williams said contrary to belief that certain politicians could sway the vote, it was voters instead who had the power to influence a positive outcome.

“This year’s vote will impact you a lot, so, go out and vote,” she said.

“Let’s avoid a situation where we create apathy, the people are the game-changers in this election. Go to the polls, it is part of being a Zimbabwean.”

Zapu spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa said young people had the power to change Zimbabwe’s fortunes.



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