They matter ‘only in election times’

Hon Folks, for the first time in living memory we’ve heard that the youth are the focal point of the next national budget.

Old man Goodall Gondwe, the Minister of Finance, reportedly even used the youth as an excuse for dodging this year’s pre-budget consultations. He said he wanted them to feel free as they added value to the 2018/19 national budget mooted with them in mind.

It’s an honour accorded to a demographic group which has all along been easily dismissed as “leaders of tomorrow,” whatever that means. If truth be told, multiparty democracy has this far given the youth a raw deal—poor quality education, no job opportunities, no hope for the future.

Instead, politicians have mostly used them as vigilantes, arming them with razor-sharp machetes for cutting throats of perceived enemies of their political masters.

A chill still runs down the spine when I recall the cadets in a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) pick-up who, in broad daylight on July 10 2011, drove along Blantyre City streets, baying for the blood of those who had problems with the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s leadership style. The police simply buried their heads in the sand!

Years earlier when Bakili Muluzi was President, I recall Vice President Justin Malewezi, at a function convened by the Malawi Human Rights Commission at Natural Resources in Lilongwe, condemning the tendency by politicians to abuse  the youth for sheer  political expediency.

Malewezi said it wasn’t right for people who send their own children to schools abroad to exploit the gullibility of less privileged youth, using them in fighting political battles they know nothing about.

That was brave considering his own boss, Bakili  Muluzi, somehow made the “reformed police” tremble at the sight of ‘Marshal the Duke’ and other United Democratic Front (UDF) roughnecks who were fondly called  “Young Democrats“.

These folks could beat the hell out of opposition leaders anywhere—at a police station, at a police road block and even at Parliament Building—without any arrest being made.

The President never condemned such violence and the governing party simply denied responsibility, saying there was no proof that the violent rascals belonged to UDF. On their part, the police simply recited:  “We are investigating.”

Muluzi‘s tenure expired in 2004 but use of the youth in violence, not national development, prevails even today on the watch of APM. Ask Chief Chikulamayembe of Rumphi and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, they recently got a feel of how the DPP has sharpened its youth into terror machine. Not that the MCP youth are any better.

Malawian politicians seem to be adept at scooping the youth deprived of a bright future into roughnecks. Only that such low life is fuelled by chamba, kachasu and various other types of illicit stuff that numb the brain and hypnotise the sense of good or bad, right or wrong. It’ a kind of lifestyle that can easily be bankrolled with change or petty cash.

Why then has the APM administration decided the youth such a big deal in the forthcoming national budget? My take is that it’s all because of  the 2019 tripartite election.

The youth will constitute more than 60 of the electorate!  Government wants to be seen to care so much about them if only in anticipation of some tangible returns by way of the votes.

It’s also the reason we hear a lot about prospective MPs sponsoring football and netball teams in their constituencies. You are doomed if the youth loathe you!

I’d also like to believe that voter demographics, more than anything else, is what makes youthful politicians such as Vice- President Saulos Chilima and UDF president Atupele Muluzi such valuable cards to APM who,  like his Finance Minister Gondwe, falls in the old man category.

Living legend Steve Wander sang in protest that US politicians visit folks in the ghetto only in election times. In Malawi, folks in the periphery, including the youth, matter also only in election times.

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