By Costa Nkomo
Higher learning institutions are unique intellectual houses of thought that have undisputedly become a breeding ground for human right activists who have become a headache to the contemporary world of politics. Student politics in Zimbabwe started at the then University of Rhodesia as the University of Zimbabwe was known before it was renamed in 1980 and it echoed unimaginable extensive African political movements in the Southern part of the continent.
On the eve of the Liberation struggle students were romped into the revolutionary movement with little or no space of disobedience. Some writers have noted that students at the University of Rhodesia failed to develop a clear political strategy that linked the rural struggle to an urban political mobilization, in the townships, factories and at the university. This alone paralysed the student union and consequently playing a passive role in the liberation struggle.
However, a few students decamped from the university into exile and joined the guerrilla struggle.
The independence dawn ushered in a new political landscape as university students emerged as the most formidable stewards of the interests of the ruling regime. This symbiotic relationship was short lived because of different political and economic reasons. Among the cause to the disruption of this relationship as contained in the history of the country, was the genocide era that subjected residents in Matebeleland and some parts of Midlands to inhuman atrocities by the North Korean trained army known as the Fifth Brigade. Since then, Matebeleland region has never been a darling to the ruling government as evidenced by the failure of the ruling government to win elections particularly in Bulawayo where Zanu PF is yet to taste a win since 1980.
Fast forward to the 1990s, higher learning institution student politics bred out unarguable a group of outstanding politicians but not limited to Nelson Chamisa, Raymond Majongwe, Tendai Biti, Munyaradzi Musekiwa, Charlton Hwende et al who became the prominent figures of the Morgan Tsvangirai led Movement for Democratic Change right away from its birth in 1999. These figures are kept in the political history books for their arousing spirit particularly a figure like Chamisa who became a legislator at the age of 25.
Unlike those students who faced the ruthlessness of Ian Smith’s government, the aforementioned personalities were subjected to unfriendly political environment in an independent Zimbabwe. In short , it has been alleged that they sought to install a regime change using a Western political template which antagonised President Robert Mugabe’s legacy.
Apart from Tendai Biti et al, student politics has lost relevance to the political landscape in Zimbabwe. In the last decade, in memory of student political figures like Lovemore Chinoputsa, Clever Bere et al have all gone hiding into a political abyss or they have thrown themselves into political dustbins. Thus, Chamisa and company remain role models for student leaders who seem to go against the ruling government for best reasons known to themselves.
Lately, student leaders like Shadowlite Ndou, Rodwell Nyika et al have been giving hope to the student’s community. However, the political disease that infected Bere et al seems to have grabbed them at once. Their quick disappearance from political scene raise eyebrows whether were they seriously targeting to liberating the academic as they purported on the eve of their way to office. Of all these comrades, only Nyika remains on the scene although his prowess is yet to be tested. Despite his anti-government antics , the young academic has founded Zimbabwe Coalition for Unemployed Graduates (ZCUG) a movement that at one point became vocal in asking the ruling government to honour its promises made in the run up to the harmonised 2013 national elections where the opposition parties lost to President Mugabe dismally.
Where are the post-independence student leaders to remind the present student leadership that representing students is not about self enriching, hatred and immorality.? These student leaders of today should strongly be urged to learn from student activism that lived before and soon after independence. Student activism that poses as a political party at university or any other higher learning institutions is not only irrelevant but its an evidence of how poisonous the present generation is at leadership positions.