Why did Zanu PF decide to revive the ‘green bombers’ project?
It won’t take energy to see why Zanu Pf is so keen to bring back the notorious “green bomber” project, it’s so obvious that the 2018 elections worked as a wake up call to the party that its existence depends on its ability to go back to its violent and abusive mode of 2008.
What is the “green bomber” project?
Let’s take a look, the “green bomber” project officially known as The youth service was initially introduced in 2000 by the late Border Gezi, who at the time was minister for gender, youth and employment.
The purpose of the program was to:
“transform and empower youths for nation building through life skills training and leadership development“.
In practice however the training has been a political indoctrination project which has made it possible for the graduates to be mobilised for political violence as reported by the media and human rights organisations for years.
Most of the green bombers from the early 2000s were later absorbed into the army, prison service and the police, with some remaining in government’s employ as ghost workers and “youth officers” with no clear mandate for years.
The project was officially disbanded in 2009 during the government of national unity (GNU) however it is still known that there are “youth officers” who are still on government payroll up to this day.
Successive finance ministers including the current one have argued that the “youth officers” – estimated to number around 4,000 – should be relieved of their duties because they are gobbling a considerable amount of money annually in salaries.
In 2019 presenting the 2020 budget, finance minister Mthuli Ncube, highlighted the need to lay off the “youth officers”. However, he faced resistance from other ministers and the state media started to prop up the idea of reviving the project altogether.
For the past few years Zanu PF has been emphasising the need to have the service back. In its 17th annual people’s conference resolutions in 2018, the party agreed to have the project back. From Zanu Pf the idea has officially reached to the government level.
On March 13th 2021 the Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa told a news briefing session post cabinet meeting that the cabinet has agreed to the reintroduction of the suspended National Youth Service Training Programme.
Justifications for the program
On paper the purpose remains to “transform and empower youths for nation building through life skills training and leadership development”.
Minister Mutsvangwa reiterated that:
“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.”
However as the details emerge, the real intentions reveal themselves. Echoing terms often used in connection with the Zanu Pf Chitepo school of ideology which the former President seemed to interchange with the program the minister went on to say:
“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.”
This language is not new, supporters of the program have been clear for years. In 2018 Talent Gore writing in the state controlled Herald said:
“The service instils, in young Zimbabweans, a sense of national pride and inculcating patriotism in them.”
He argued that:
The programme proposes to unite people above party lines while promoting awareness of “foreign influence and interference” in national politics.
In the same year an unnamed Zanu Pf central committee member admitted to the media that:
“Zimbabwe is ruled by a revolutionary party and for it to survive the youth have to know the country’s history and be patriotic. If we don’t do this, we might as well kiss goodbye the youth vote in 2023,”
State security minister Owen Ncube said it is his government’s priority to instil patriotism in young people, he was quoted in 2018 saying:
“Instilling discipline and a sense of patriotism in our youth has been one of the milestones of the new dispensation,”
In his closing remarks at the 2018 Zanu Pf conference the party’s first secretary, and Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, vowed that Zanu PF was on a self-restructuring exercise in order to rule for infinity, in his words he said:
“We have an appointment with our destiny and we will not miss our destiny. Zanu PF will not be distracted or destroyed,”
The ideas of indoctrinating the youths are entrenched within the party and government. Zimbabwe’s development blueprint the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) highlighted in plain terms how the government sees young people:
“It has been noted that most youth in Zimbabwe have not embraced the culture of hard work and the principle that hard and honest work pays.”NDS1 item number 735
The former deputy minister of defence and one of Zanu PDF’s most vocal leaders Victor Matemadanda highlighted this suspicion of young people in 2018 saying:
“We have realised that the youths are giving us problems. We had the G40 in Zanu PF that almost sunk our party and now the person giving us grief, Chamisa, is within the same generation,”
Indoctrination as a strategy
Seeing young people as problems which need to be contained, seeing them as beings which have gotten “wrong” kind of education and seeing young people as beings which can be manipulated the ruling Zanu Pf party sees it’s survival in indoctrination.
The revival of the youth services comes at a time when it has been revealed that the party is already targeting chiefs, council bosses and their employees for indoctrination at the Hebert Chitepo School of Ideology to help drum up support ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Writing to the Zanu Pf secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, Chitepo School of Ideology principal Munyaradzi Machacha stated in plain terms that these trainings would be part of the party’s strategy to mobilise five million votes for Zanu PF ahead of the 2023 elections. Seen together with other strategic manoeuvres the end goal is to keep Zanu Pf in power at all costs.