AS the country celebrated National Youth Day on Monday, February 21, it was befitting to look at how best this demographic group could act as the vanguard in the development thrust of our country.
To do so we have to help clear hurdles that could disturb our youth in fulfilling this leading role.
Not only that; we also have to look at the national ethos, etched out of our history, as a constant silent reminder of where we came from.
We have to look at what’s being done, and what’s to be done, to make our youth proud of their leadership role.
The atmosphere in which this year’s commemorations were held at Robert Gabriel Mugabe Square spoke volumes of the growing significance of this occasion.
That President Emmerson Mnangagwa, himself, was the guest of honour at the celebrations added weight to the significance of the commemorations.
This year’s theme: ‘Alleviate Substance and Drug Abuse by the Youth’ is indicative of the possible obstacles that are faced by the youth of today.
It is unfortunate that drug and substance abuse appear fashionable among our youth.
Often, violent behaviour, vandalism, unprotected sex and mental disorders are some of the outcomes of drug and substance abuse.
All this is inimical to the proper upbringing of youths ready to spearhead development.
Instead, they become an impediment to development and a burden to relatives, who, ironically, they are supposed to help.
But with peer influence, poverty and weak parental guidance, the problem of drug abuse seems to be on the increase.
Another major problem, especially for local youth, is the easy accessibility of the substances and drugs.
Moreover, most are not that expensive.
Items like musombodhiya, mbanje, mutoriro, glue and tumbwa are very affordable.
It is unfortunate that our law enforcement agents are lethargic in their efforts to curb this abuse and save our youth.
It looks like there are fixed bases where these substances and drugs are available on the streets.
There should be determination to nip the practice in the bud by identifying the peddlers and dealing with them with a firm hand.
Efforts to highlight effects of drug and substance abuse should be redoubled.
This was among the highlights at this year’s National Youth Day.
Those involved in drug or substance abuse must be made aware they are welcome back in society if they abandon the practice.
The public readmission into society of a former drug abuser by the President himself was a welcome gesture.
She was even offered a job.
Otherwise, apart from the drug and substance menace, our youth should be proud of the ethos of patriotism and unity bequeathed from the liberation struggle.
With this as their armour, they should be able to proudly assume their role as leaders in our development thrust.
After all, our youth were at the forefront of the struggle to rid the country of white settler-rule.
That is probably why the President emphasised the significance of self-determination.
Having defeated white settlers against all odds, there was no need to recall them as our youth take part in building our country.
In the same way Zambia is built by Zambians, just as Britain is built by the British, so is Zimbabwe built by Zimbabweans.
And the heritage of unity from the liberation struggle has to be in the DNA of our youth.
The President reminded them of this when he expressed his abhorrence of tribalism and regionalism.
But the youth cannot be expected to rely on inheritance alone to forge ahead in their mission to promote development.
A lot of groundwork has to be done on a big scale to prepare our youth to be creative and innovative.
This must be through opening up of opportunities for them, providing them with the necessary financial backing and providing them with relevant education.
The youth are on a mission.
Thus, our National Youth Day should be a day for introspection for this critical demographic group.