What’s On Mnangagwa’s Mind As Bombers Are Revived?
25 February 2024
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The reintroduction of Zimbabwe’s National Youth Service (NYS), historically known as the “Green Bombers,” by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has reignited concerns over its economic and societal implications. This analysis explores the contentious legacy of the NYS and its impact on Zimbabwe’s fragile economy, particularly highlighting issues of intimidation, business interference, and the disruption of agricultural productivity.

**A Legacy of Intimidation and Economic Disruption**

The NYS, initially launched by the late national hero Cde Border Gezi in 2000, has been a subject of significant controversy. Critics argue that it served as a tool for political manipulation, where graduates, often referred to as “Green Bombers,” were implicated in acts of intimidation against political opponents and the general populace. This environment of fear and coercion has had profound implications for the business community, deterring investment and stifacing economic growth.

**Undermining Agricultural Productivity**

Perhaps one of the most devastating economic impacts of the NYS’s activities has been the disruption of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. The program’s graduates were often at the forefront of farm invasions, part of a broader land reform program that saw the forcible redistribution of land from white farm owners to black Zimbabweans. While the intent was to correct historical land imbalances, the execution led to a sharp decline in agricultural productivity, a sector once considered the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy. The loss of expertise, combined with the lack of support and training for new farmers, resulted in significant food shortages and a dependency on food imports, further straining the national budget.

**Economic Consequences and Investor Confidence**

The historical actions of the NYS have cast a long shadow over Zimbabwe’s economic landscape. The perception of political instability and the risk of property seizure have severely hampered foreign direct investment. Investors remain wary of entering a market where policy can be unpredictably influenced by political agendas and where their investments are not secure from expropriation or disruption by politically motivated groups.

**The Path Forward: Reconciliation and Reform**

For Zimbabwe to recover and prosper, it is essential to address the grievances and abuses of the past, including those associated with the NYS. This involves a commitment to genuine economic and political reforms that prioritize the rule of law, property rights, and the depoliticization of institutions such as the NYS. Rebuilding trust with the international community, investors, and among Zimbabweans themselves will require transparent and inclusive policies that ensure the NYS or any similar initiative is dedicated purely to positive youth development and not to furthering political agendas at the expense of the nation’s economy.


While the government presents the revival of the NYS as a move towards youth empowerment and national development, the historical context raises valid concerns about its potential economic implications. For Zimbabwe to move forward, it is crucial that lessons from the past guide the restructuring of the NYS into a force for positive change, rather than a repeat of a history that has contributed to the country’s economic challenges. The focus must be on creating a sustainable and inclusive economic environment that benefits all Zimbabweans, free from the specter of intimidation and economic disruption.