What explains the re-emergence of the National Youth Service/Militia, launched in Zimbabwe in August 2001? This paper argues that, amid the intense political struggle between the ruling party and a largely worker- and urban-society-based political opposition, there was an urgent need to have in place a cheap and available institution that could be relied upon both to toe the party line religiously and to execute state supported extra-legal activities, including violence. The institution, drawn from the country’s earlier political history, was the Zimbabwe Peoples’ Militia, now reincarnated as the National Youth Service (NYS). This assertion is supported by the role and function of the NYS, deployed to ‘police’ the results of Operation Murambatsvina, the forced removal of the poor from the country’s urban centres, which has been universally condemned, even by the African Union. However, if this analysis is correct, post-crisis Zimbabwe will be faced with the challenge of having to put down the NYS, a situation similar to what happened in Malawi, towards the end of the reign of the late Malawian President, Kamuzu Banda, and his Young Pioneers.
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Categories: Journal of African Elections