HARARE – The full-scale comeback of the much dreaded National Youth Service (NYS) is facing major challenges as funding for the programme is limited, due to the cash crisis government is currently facing — a Cabinet minister has said.
Addressing a press conference yesterday, Youth and Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao said the programme that was re-introduced this year, has only managed to train 112 youths.
NYS’s first batch was inaugurated in 2001 by President Robert Mugabe at the Border Gezi Training Centre in Mount Darwin and until 2008 the programme had churned “80 000” graduates.
Ostensibly, aimed at instilling a sense of national identity and patriotism, the youth training programme was later to be shrouded in controversy as cases of physical abuse and torture emerged.
Then opposition parties accused Mugabe’s government of training a militia that was indoctrinated in favour of Zanu PF.
Even to date the programme is hugely discredited by the public as graduates produced from the training camps are associated with violence and intimidation of opposition party supporters.
A report released in 2005 by the Solidarity Peace Trust revealed that the NYS cadets were being trained in paramilitary style and would readily unleash violence to those who opposed Zanu PF.
But the idea of bringing back the controversial programme whose graduates are commonly derided as “green bombers” is suffering a stillbirth as a broke government fails to inject funds.
“The ministry and the National Youth Service Association made up of alumni of the programme is in talks to try and source alternative funding to bring back the programme. It will not be compulsory. It will be a robust exercise where those who want to join can do so at their own free will,” said Zhuwao.
Previously, a national youth service certificate was critical for one to get employment as the Zanu PF-led government gave preference to those who were trained from the Border Gezi training camps — for employment in the public service much to the chagrin of opposition parties.
“There will be no strategies used to attract anyone who does not want to come. This programme is about empowerment not ulterior motives that people perceive.
“Only those with foolish tendencies will not attend a programme that seeks to empower them,” he said.
NYS graduate trainee and Mhondoro-Ngezi legislator Mike Gava said it was important for the association to regroup.
Gava said many youths in the remote areas of the country are in the habit of complaining and constantly blaming government.
“The youths should just accept the reality on the ground and not always find fault with government, without them trying to do anything.
“When there is a drought they blame government. Leadership hainayise mvura,” Gava said.