By Leopold Munhende
CABINET Tuesday agreed to the reintroduction of the suspended National Youth Service Training Programme, whose graduates have been linked to acts of terror on mostly opposition supporters at the behest of government and the ruling Zanu PF party.
This was announced during this week’s post-cabinet media briefing by Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
The proposal, according to Mutsvangwa, came as a result of consultations between the ministries of Youths and Defence and was tabled by Youth Minister Kirsty Coventry.
Said Mutsvangwa, “Cabinet noted that National Youth Service is an important youth development programme which is crucial in nurturing young people into becoming responsible and resilient citizens with a clear sense of national identity and respect for national values.”
“The programme is a key strategy for youth empowerment in national, regional, continental and international development guiding frameworks to which Zimbabwe is a member.
“The programme is designed to equip youths, who comprise persons between the ages of 18 and 35 years with patriotism, discipline, volunteerism, survival skills, hard work, loyalty, tolerance, resilience, determination and honesty.
“During training the youths will be encouraged to participate in development projects and disaster response activities and thereby assist in enhancing national capacity to manage disasters.”
Mutsvangwa added the government would fund the programme upon enactment of the necessary law.
“The programme shall also be mandated to generate its own income through engagement in commercial activities. The youths will not pay fees but will be provided with uniforms, training kits and travel expenses, and will be accorded allowances as the economy improves.”
The controversial programme was introduced in the early 2000s by the now late Youth Minister and one time Zanu PF political commissar Border Gezi as an orientation programme for the youths before they sought employment in the country.
However, the graduates, derisively referred to as Green bombers because of their light green uniform, were often accused of unleashing terror against perceived opposition members in the communities they lived in.
They have also been dismissed by opponents as indoctrination camps for desperate young men and women who were being trained to become Zanu PF foot soldiers.
Critics of the training programme have also questioned why children of top Zimbabwean politicians are instead taken to expensive universities abroad while those of the poor are confined to the camps to be fed on Zanu PF propaganda under the guise of national youth training.