The Sunday Mail
ln 1991, the Government of Zimbabwe established the Junior Parliament in a bid to cultivate leadership skills in children and allow them to participate in national building, while addressing the young people’s concerns.
The August House for junior parliamentarians came into existence as a result of the Day of the African Child, a day commemorated annually on June 16.
This followed a declaration by the African Union Heads of State to pay tribute to the 1976 protests by school children in Soweto, South Africa.
The Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe mirrors the National Assembly and Senate set-up. Every constituency in the country’s 10 provinces has a junior Member of Parliament.
June 16 marked the official opening of the 26th Session of the Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare.
The sitting child President is Innocent Chikwanda.
For most teenagers, becoming a member of Junior Parliament or being at the helm of it all – child presidency – is a great achievement.
For the duration of their tenure, a child President is chauffeur-driven, saluted and escorted whenever there is a public gathering.
But with all the pomp that comes with the presidency as they sit in the “temple of democracy”, what becomes of these children after their one-year tenure?
In an effort to establish whether this opportunity shapes the junior parliamentarians’ future, The Sunday Mail Society caught up with Nhlanhla Moyo.
Moyo, who is running as an independent candidate for Bulawayo Central, was child President in 2014 at the age of 19.
He was a Hamilton High School student.
He is also chief executive officer of iACT Leadership Foundation, a human capital and leadership development company.
Moyo describes himself as a passionate, God-fearing person.
“I was born into politics. My family has been in politics for quite some time, but I won’t go into detail about that,” he said.
He said his journey started a few years back when he was still a student.
“I always felt this sense of duty. I first took myself to task through the Bulawayo Junior City Council where I learnt a lot about civic participation and engagement as well as serving the community before myself,” he said.
Soon after, he was elected child President of Zimbabwe.
“I got to interact with politicians at national level. I learnt a lot and developed my capacity for civic leadership but even after that, I still felt there was more to be done.”
Could Moyo’s involvement in politics at a tender age have shaped his political career?
“Definitely, yes!” he said.
Moyo said his major focus is on development work, specifically sexual reproductive health for young people.
Recently, he was elected national facilitator to represent the interests of young people in Zimbabwe through advocacy with the Young People’s Network on Sexual Reproductive Health HIV & Aids which is, convened by the National Aids Council.
However, the former child President said most junior first citizens of the country feel neglected after their tenures in office.
“After serving you are on your own, you have to find your own money to go to university. We were promised better education and a better life but that is not the case, I never got anything from the Zimbabwe Youth Council, I financed my own education,” he said
Zimbabwe Youth Council runs the Zimbabwe Junior Parliament.
Moyo said his vision is to meaningfully contribute to the building of a socially and economically prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe through creating community level platforms that promote inclusivity, unity, transparency, justice and accountability.
“I value ubuntu, family, service, integrity, transparency and accountability as a leader. God has sustained me in leadership through these values and I know they will lead me to bigger and better things,” he said.
Moyo is of the opinion that most young people are running as independent candidates in the forthcoming harmonised elections because traditional party systems have been excluding the youth at decision-making level.
“Young people have been used as tools for violence and propellants of geriatric leadership for so long but when it comes to key decision-making processes, our voices have been missing.
“So if the system is designed against you, you find alternative non-violent ways of making sure that you are heard,” he said.
Moyo is not the only former child President who has turned out to be a politician.
Controversial clergyman-cum-activist Evan Mawarire served as child President between 1993 and 1994 after having been elected child MP for Mashonaland West’s Hurungwe constituency at a very tender age.
His involvement in politics at a young age seem to have shaped the activist in him. Mawarire is running for a council seat in Mt Pleasant as an independent candidate.
Political experts feel there is need to invest in young people who want to get involved in politics as they can contribute positively to the socio-economy of the country.
Gideon Maunganidze, a political scientist with the University of Zimbabwe, said it is critical to engage young people, groom and equip them with resources so that they can add value to the country.
He said if more young people manage to get into Parliament after the 2018 elections, the country will benefit from their energy, innovation and creativity.
“It will give Zimbabwe and Africa a chance to think and speak differently towards development and the ability to compete effectively in this fast-paced world.”
Indeed, the continent will benefit immensely from the young brains of Africa.