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Is Student Activism in Zimbabwe Still the Voice of Students Interests or a Vehicle for Political Agendas of the Elites?

By Francis Mukora

Since the turn of the millennium, the effectiveness of student politics in advancing issues of concern to Zimbabwean students has been steadily waning with both the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) and the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Unions (ZICOSU) being accused of showing more interest and allegiance to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the ruling ZANU PF party respectively at the expense of student welfare.

The political parties’ influence on these rival student bodies has become so enormous that often times, they prefer to antagonize each other instead of collaborating in pursuit of the common good of students across the country. While there is nothing wrong with their alignment to political parties of similar ideologies, such association should not be at the expense of their core mandate which seem to have compromised their whole essence and relevance.

When you hear that a body such as ZICOSU benefitted from the misappropriation of funds such as happened with the ZIMDEF scandal, you know that they are not here to represent the interest of students but themselves and their political parties,”

Consequent to what they view as a loss of focus, most students across the country have tended to shy away from activities associated with students unions. Bridget Chigovanyika, a student at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), said student representative bodies no longer have any relevance to the struggle of students since they have not been able to provide solutions to a myriad of challenges faced by students across the country.

The political polarity and blatant allegiance characterizing ZINASU and ZICOSU led to the formation of a third student union called the Zimbabwe International Students’ Alliance (ZISA) in 2015 which has however also remained largely unknown among most students two years down the line despite its pledge to represent student issues without any political affiliation.

According to Paul Mumanyi, another student at the Bindura University of Science Education, student representative bodies began losing the faith of students when they adopted a “see no evil, hear no evil” attitude to the excessive of their favorite parties instead of being critical and progressive pressure groups that advances the interests of students and the nation at large.

When you hear that a body such as ZICOSU benefitted from the misappropriation of funds such as happened with the ZIMDEF scandal, you know that they are not here to represent the interest of students but themselves and their political parties,” said Mumanyi. “Why then should we trust them as students, especially when both of them are more interested in furthering the interests of ZANU PF and the MDC while students continue to suffer?”

These sentiments by the students who are supposed to be looking at student politics with optimism shows that something needs to be done urgently if the credibility of student bodies as genuine representatives of student concerns is to be revived to the levels of the days of the former leaders such as Arthur Mutambara, Munyaradzi Gwisai and Job Sikhala among others.