Zimbabwe: Youth march in support of Mugabe | Africa | DW | 24.05.2016
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Zimbabwe: Youth march in support of Mugabe

Young people marched in Zimbabwe to show their support for 92-year-old President Mugabe. But what do young people really feel about the man who has ruled the country for 36 years?

At least 100,000 young people from each of the country's ten provinces took part in the march in support of the head of state on May 25. President Mugabe is scheduled to address the crowd. But Mugabe's public support is clearly on the wane, owing to growing economic and social problems.

A cross section of Zimbabwean youths who spoke to DW expressed mixed feelings over the march. One young man said that President Mugabe's leadership "has been groundbreaking; the whole of Africa and the world know that. I, for one, love the leadership of President Mugabe."

But there was also criticism, like this voiced by another young man in Harare: "We are at a very crucial time for young people. And time is something we are throwing away. Youth is not creating or developing." A young woman was even more critical of President Mugabe: "He has failed us. I voted for him and while growing up I had this revolutionary thing in my mind. It was in me - I was ZANU-PF all the way, I was President Mugabe all the way, and I never thought I would want to leave this country."

Protesters hold up a sign saying Old clueless Mugabe must go

Young people in Zimbabwe are increasingly critical of the nonagenarian president

Despite facing divisions and mounting pressure, Mugabe has held on, mainly by crushing any opposition within his party. He is seeking reelection in 2018, when he will be 94 years old. According to analysts, the march on May 25, which will cost $600,000 (537,000 euros), is meant to buttress Mugabe's attempt to cling to power.

That is not the opinion of Kudzanai Chipanga, deputy secretary for the Youth League of the governing party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), who points out that Mugabe has led the country since the end of the colonial era: "No matter how old he is and even if he attains 125 years, so long as he is still brilliant and has ideas to take us forward as a nation, we will keep on voting for him," Chipanga says.

But there is increasing dissent. Some feel that President Mugabe has stopped listening to the voice of reason. A young local pastor started a campaign online dubbed #ThisFlag, which Zimbabweans are using on social media to vent their anger at the government. Evan Mawarire, the founder of the campaign, which is growing very fast, has this to say on the one-million-men march: "If people have to show up at a march to prove that they support you, then I think you have a problem. The question we are asking is whether the march is being done in solidarity with the president as the leader. As an adult, I have weighed him and I am afraid that I have found him wanting."

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