1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Kasukuwere Grilled Over Youth Fund

BULAWAYO youths bearing the brunt of the city's company closures have questioned Youth Development, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere why he was only engaging them now that crucial elections were imminent.

Zanu PF is targeting the youth vote in the elections expected later this year.

The youths constitute a huge voting bloc of about 60% of Zimbabwe's 5,4 million registered voters.

Kasukuwere told the youths in Bulawayo on Monday he had been tasked by President Robert Mugabe with a "generational mandate to inform youths countrywide that they should have a firm grip on the economy".

"Mugabe said to me, minister, tell the youth that time for action is now," said Kasukuwere. "The hour that many of our young people have been waiting for is a generational assignment to take control of the economy."

He had a torrid time responding adequately to queries raised by the city's youths.

They told him of alleged skewed disbursement of the controversial Youth Fund.

Youths from the Matabeleland region have been accused of submitting un-bankable business plans or simply shunning the Youth Fund scheme.

The youths said they are struggling to access the Youth Fund and felt marginalised.

Kasukuwere blamed the banks for the youths' woes saying they (banks) are refusing to fund youths' empowerment drive.

He said that attitude would be rectified "in a few days" without elaborating.

However, that was insufficient to calm the youths who charged that Kasukuwere was only expressing concern over their plight because elections are looming.

Zanu PF passed a resolution at its conference in Gweru last December calling for the "speedy disbursement of youth empowerment funds to districts and wards by the responsible government ministry to facilitate the much-needed development capital to the jobless youths".

Kasukuwere said in Lupane last year he was amazed "most proposals by the youths from Matabeleland are about chickens" and demanded that they submit "big proposals to venture into tourism, mining and wildlife".

"I do not want any more chicken projects from you!" he said.

It also emerged at the meeting that Cabs had not processed most project proposals with more than 7 000 having already been rejected.

Out of the US$10 million seed money for the fund, only US$2,9 million has been disbursed to youths in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo.

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