POLICE were on Wednesday called in to quell clashes between Zanu PF and MDC youth during a poll to elect the leadership of the Bulawayo chapter of the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC) in the spirit of the inclusive government formed in February.
The fighting took place at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex after Zanu PF youths allegedly declined to share top executive positions they were holding before the unity government was formed.
About 200 youths from Zanu PF and MDC were in attendance. The ZYC falls under the Youth ministry and its role is to facilitate, among other issues, national youth training, employment, access to resources and entrepreneurship. The youth council gets its funding from the fiscus.
Thamsanqa Mahlangu, the deputy Youth minister, confirmed the clashes between the MDC and Zanu PF youth.
â€œThere were clashes in Bulawayo because Zanu PF has been abusing the ZYC and had turned it into a party property,â€ Mahlangu said. â€œWe are going to dissolve the current youth council because it is not inclusive, it is Zanu-nised.â€
He said the council was appearing like an extension of Zanu PF.
â€œWe have agreed to put a new inclusive structure and to decentralise the ZYC so that it represents all Zimbabwean youth across the political divide,â€ the deputy minister said.
Witnesses to the clashes said the Zanu PF youths were adamant that the top positions they were holding were not for contest as the MDC were â€œnewcomersâ€ and did not know how the youth council operates.
â€œZanu PF youth were arguing that they were supposed to be given all the top positions without any contest,â€ one of the witnesses said.
Running battles, the witnesses said, started after the Zanu PF youths dug in their heels insisting that they should be allowed to hang on to the top positions. Mahlangu said after the Wednesday clashes, fresh elections have been slated for today at Mhlahlandlela Government Complex.
He added that his ministry last week â€œremoved the ZYC offices from Zanu PF headquartersâ€ to Mkwati Building in Harare.
â€œIt is clear that the youth council had been Zanu-nised. How can you have an office which is supposed to represent all Zimbabwean youths being based at the Zanu PF offices? A large chunk of taxpayerâ€™s money was being used to fund Zanu PF programmes,â€ Mahlangu said.
The ZYCâ€™s objectives include ensuring that development strategies and programmes incorporate youths, developing specific youth-oriented programmes that improve the skills of young people through a range of institutions and encouraging equal youth employment opportunities with particular attention to reducing gender inequalities.
BY HENRY MHARA AND NQOBANI NDLOVU