I recently came across a Herald headline (Thursday 20 October 2016) which proudly proclaimed; “ Zim jobless rate stabilises: survey”. I was shocked and enraged with the ‘gutter journalism’ displayed by the Zimbabwean government propaganda mouthpiece. The headline article began by stating that “the national average unemployment rate in Zimbabwe stabilised at 11 and `12 percent” which is not a true reflection of the situation as we experience it in Zimbabwe.
The situation is more like one-out-of-ten are employed. It then quotes the Zimstat report titled Labour force characteristics thematic report which says that; “of the 7.7 million people of working age 5.1 million are economically active” as the reporter tries to equate ‘economically active’ to ‘employment.
This is an insult to the intelligence of the educated youth who are failing to find employment in our moribund economy. To say only one out of ten youths are out of employment in Zimbabwe today in a national newspaper is incredible and incredulous and shows the journalists are under pressure to manufacture success stories for government as 2018 draws near.
For an official government statistics agency and government media outlet to collude in bracketing desperately poor people engaged in survivalist entrepreneurship defined by marginal earnings such as airtime vending into the ranks of the employed is diabolical to say the least.
I will explain what I mean because I have sold airtime for a living before. Most networks leave a profit margin of seven or eight cents for the vendor selling a dollar airtime recharge card. This means that for an airtime vendor to earn eight dollars profit, he/she must sale 100 airtime juice cards.
A feat that many take two, three or five days depending on the area and competition! Such low earnings condemn vendors to the social bracket of the indigent and paupers far away from the comfortable-sounding ‘employed’ status which the Herald prefers.
I am a thirty six years old father of two kids and an unemployed graduate eking a living in the unforgiving informal sector in Chitungwiza. I hardly make enough to sustain my family and my life is a financial roller-coaster due to income fluctuations making long-term planning unfeasible.
Despite holding a degree, which in the 80s and 90s signified the doorway to social progress and a comfortable middle-class lifestyle, I fear for my family’s future due to my inability to meet their basic needs on a sustainable basis. I wonder what did I do wrong or where did I go wrong in life to end up mired in so much poverty.
As I wander aimlessly from one street corner to another drug den in Zengeza, St Marys and Seke with other unemployed youths and mature adults searching for the dealers selling intoxicating cough syrups “bronco” , the most potent marijuana “kokoko”, or the cheapest illicit liquor “musombodia”-a favourite pastime for ghetto youths aptly named ‘SASCAM rounds’ by those who speak the ghetto lingo.
Simple head counts reveal that nine out of ten are trapped in this vicious cycle of poverty due to unemployment linked to Zimbabwe’s long-running political and economic crisis. In short, their lives closely mirror my own dire existence due to lack of sustainable economic opportunities.
What makes the situation absurd and tragic is that we were actually trained and got the requisite qualifications and skills to enter into the professions of our dreams and when we should be reaping the fruits of years of hard study, effort and apprenticeship, the regime fails to provide the much needed social goods, the decent and lucrative jobs we yearned for when our teachers asked; “ What do you what to be when you grow up?”.
I am sure that none of my classmates or any of the born-free generation stood up in response to that seminal question or wrote in his composition/essay that “ When I grow up I want to be anairtime vendor, or a Hwindi or a second-hand clothes dealer or cross-border trader or a prostitute or bartender or currency dealer or whatsapp installer or flea market salesman or any of the demeaning, tedious and low income vocations that are sustaining millions in Zimbabwe as our country implodes and veers towards a failed state!
I am sure our rulers understand that youths need jobs and sustainable economic opportunities as the number-one and overriding priority. After all they promised us 2.2 million quality jobs in the heat of the 2013 elections and their ZIMASSET election manifesto located job-creation as a key deliverable. Yet they lacked the political will to stop our economy haemorrhaging more jobs instead of creating more opportunities- a sad indictment of their failure to govern for the people!
Compatriots, We were cheated of our dreams by the long-ruling and ruining party of Zimbabwe! We carry the generational mandate to reclaim our country’s future from the kleptocracy whose tentacles of wholesale corruption, naked nepotism and brutal repression are strangling our nation and suffocating our economy.
There is a huge gulf between our national and personal aspirations and what our national leaders can provide. It is time youths redefine the political matrix in Zimbabwe and reset our political trajectory on the path to economic growth, equality, good governance and respect of the rule of law.