Martin Luther King Jr once remarked, “Darkness cannot drive out hate; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Let these young people protest the hopeless conditions under which they are living. Of course there are risks and costs to a programme of action. But they are far less than the long- range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.
Our youths should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.
Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in peaceful protests is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.
Great changes in the destiny of our country can be effected only in the minds of young people.
Robert Kennedy said, “This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”
The message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they — at some distant point in the future — will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.
The youths, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously.
The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.
According to the Youth Charter, the youths recognise that they are the future of Zambia and that the mistakes being made today will affect them in the future.
“We, the youths, Bear in mind our position as custodians of the future welfare of our country. Believe that Zambia’s best days are yet to come. Envision a society in which all the rights enshrined in our Constitution are accorded to every Zambian and protected irrespective of age, physical or mental ability, gender, geography, religion, education, or socio-economic status,” reads the Charter.
The document states that the youths aspire to a free society in which every Zambian can seek for and attain a decent living for themselves through employment or business ventures.
The youths are concerned with the current climate of joblessness, unchecked and rampant inequality, grand corruption and infringement of their rights, including the right to freely assemble.
The Charter demands the right to free speech, the right to freely receive and disseminate ideas.
It states that denial of those rights was a major barrier to the realisation or the advancement of the youth and enjoyment of their constitutional rights and the dignity of all Zambians.
“We therefore, demand the following: – employment, decent job opportunities for us the youth to avoid violent cadre-ism and involvement in illicit activities that result from the high unemployment levels which endanger our country now and in the future. Decent jobs are the key to our livelihoods and our dignity,” the charter states.
The document also demanded action against any individual reported to be involved in corrupt activities and that government intensifies the fight against corruption.
“We refuse to tolerate the abuse of public resources when a number of young people are starving in public universities for lack of money and we have continued to see and hear corruption allegations among top government leaders but no tangible results or actions to curb this evil,” the youths state.
The demand list also includes the respect for human rights and that the State commits to the protection of the human rights of every citizen within the borders of Zambia.
Further, the youths demand for the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom to receive and disseminate ideas, and freedom of access to information.
“We believe these freedoms are important for all Zambians in their pursuit for a better society now and in future. We further demand for protection from victimisation, suppression of youth voices by the state through the police and political cadres. We also demand fair application of the public order Act,” they stated.
The youths also want to see a leadership that is accountable and transparent to all Zambians.
“This is because we understand that our leaders are the servants of the people, therefore, the people must be aware and approve of what their servants do whilst in the office. Respect for the Constitution. That the sanctity of our Constitution should be preserved and protected from those that may attempt to violate it. The Constitution should guide our behaviour and not the politicians guiding our Constitution and any amendment to the Constitution must reflect our desires as the people of Zambia and not the narrow partisan
interests of a few politicians. Any amendment to the Constitution must only be done after full and adequate consultation of, we, the people of Zambia,” the youths demand.
The youths further demanded improved learning environments for learners across the country, especially in rural areas as they believe that only decolonised quality education is key to the success of young people and that of the country.
A comprehensive civic education focusing on civil and political rights, constitutionalism and patriotism is on the youths’ demand list as well.
They also want to see enhanced education to include compulsory entrepreneurship, agriculture and environmental education as part of the curriculum.
“We also demand equal access to education for the girl child who continue to be disadvantaged on the basis of their gender. We also demand for the reinstatement of meal allowances for all
students in all government universities because we feel even if we do not have resources, education cannot be one item we can compromise. Education is a right that every Zambian deserves,” they stated.
They also highlight access to health, good housing, clean water and good sanitation while noting that so many Zambians live in squalid conditions without access to toilets and clean running water.
The youths noted that many cannot access good healthcare when they fall sick.
“We demand that equal access to these amenities
be provided for all citizens to live in dignity. A properly funded public healthcare system is our right. Currently, decent healthcare is a distant dream for most Zambians. Healthcare remains chronically underfunded, and is a threat to our future. If we cannot be healthy, we cannot lead the country in the future and enjoy our right to a decent life,” they stated. “Women’s rights; the Zambian government and leaders at all levels must commit to include and protect Zambian women and girls in all arenas of our national life – in education, business, health, agriculture, government, mining, politics, and the home etc. Women’s contributions to Zambia’s development and well-being is immeasurable and must be afforded the recognition and investment equal to their contribution. In Zambia, as elsewhere around the world, women’s unpaid care work in health, agriculture, in the home, and the community must be recognized, reduced, and respected. In addition, Zambian women and girls must be defended and protected, especially from sexual and gender based violence.”
The youths also demanded a fair tax system where the richest citizens and companies pay their fair share.
They noted that Zambia was a country with huge natural resources but regretted that currently, a few nationals and multinational companies enjoyed the benefits of the natural resources, such as copper and gold.
The youths demanded that the wealth of the country be shared equitably to citizens’ benefit and development of the nation.
“The tax system must ensure the wealthiest contribute the most, and the poorest citizens the least. We, the youth of Zambia, are committed to ensuring that these demands are met in our lifetime,” they state.
How can one sensibly oppose this? Why are these youths not being allowed to protest in line with these issues?