24 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Street Vending - the Only Option for Zimbabwe's Graduates

Tarisai Mukahanana (26) says if she could, she would tell all those who are graduating these days that they have set themselves on a rough and tough road -- tougher than any university assignment.

Perhaps like Mukahanana who graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Nursing Science in 2010 from a local university and many other graduates that are being churned out each year, today's university graduates already know that they are graduating into obvious unemployment.

Considering the high levels of unemployment in Zimbabwe, Mukahanana believes the future of Zimbabwe's youth is hopelessly bleak.

Mukahanana now survives on cross-border trade and says with more graduates being produced every year, it means more professionals entering the job market with nowhere to go because there just aren't any jobs anywhere.

"Every time there is a graduation at any of Zimbabwe's universities and colleges, the national unemployment rate goes up. This is the truth. All recent graduates will awaken to the harsh reality of our jobless country," she said.

"There are very few opportunities to absorb the skills that we spent years acquiring at school. We have joined other graduates from the past years who are still struggling to get employment," she said, adding there is no hope in sight of finding employment for Zimbabwean graduates in the near future.

Moses Mutungwazi (29) who graduated with a Masters' Degree in Peace and Governance from another local university in 2009 is still unemployed.

"Rising unemployment has taken a heavy toll on us. We are all vulnerable to shocks in the labour market soon after graduation. Opportunities to enter the world of work are virtually non-existent and we are all condemned to a life of economic hardship and despair," he lamented.

Zimbabwe's unending unemployment, put at well above 80%, has too often seen many a young life wasted in crime and drug abuse.

"Many of us now resort to gambling to earn a few dollars to buy food. I have tried to look for a job, but I could not find any. I have five good passes at Ordinary Level including English and Mathematics but I failed to get a place at teaching and technical colleges because I could not raise bribe money which is what gets people places these days," said Joseph Makarimai (25) who now spends most of his time gambling at Sakubva bus terminus in Mutare.

The situation is perhaps worse for Letisiwe Mhlanga (26) who is now into sex work.

"I have no hope of ever finding employment. I came here [Mutare] from my rural area hoping to find employment but it has been difficult for me. I ended up selling sex," Letisiwe said.

Mavambo/Khusile/Dawn president Simba Makoni has said the Zanu PF government should end unemployment that has bedevilled the nation for decades.

"It is sad that the country has several universities and the graduates are now selling airtime and tomatoes on the streets.

There are no jobs to talk about and we must ask questions why. It is because of Mugabe and Zanu PF," he said.

Makoni said the spectra of massive youth unemployment has darkened the future of Zimbabwe, adding that he believes the way forward would be to include young people in shaping their own destiny.

"If supported and given the opportunity to express their opinions, young people can contribute to their own empowerment and to their own path out of poverty," he said.

Simon Chiperekwa, a labour expert, said youth employment was highly dependent on the overall status of the economy. He said economic activity, measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was probably the single factor that mostly influenced job opportunities.

"Low GDP and low investment in Zimbabwe are direct causes of the shrinking jobs in Zimbabwe. Our government should consider reforming its economy to allow more labour-intensive industries to develop," Chiperekwa said.

"It is government's responsibility to create a conducive economic environment that promotes employment," he said.

He also blamed the absence of good national economic policies for the current unemployment.

"Considering the pace of economic growth in our country, the expectation of sufficient formal employment in the short-term has become unrealistic," he said.

However, some unemployed youths believe there is still hope.

"The government says our industries will soon be up and running and many jobs will be created as we revamp our dilapidated industrial infrastructure. I hope we will benefit from the youth empowerment fund," said Kenneth Dirwai (27), an unemployed youth who is still under the care of his parents.

While many youths pin their hopes on the indigenisation programme, it continues to face criticism for being unsustainable and open to abuse. It is also believed the programme is being applied to benefit a few with political connections.

Dirwai said he hoped the government would clarify its indigenisation laws and also adequately explain to the youths, how they can be involved so as to benefit from the scheme.

He said a more moderate and transparent indigenisation programme would not only discourage corruption and looting, but would also encourage foreign investors to come to Zimbabwe, bringing the much-needed money and employment for the highly educated populace that the country takes so much pride in.

Exactly a year after the 2013 harmonised elections which were won by Zanu PF led by President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabweans are now worse off than they were before the polls Analysts say the much-touted economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), has dismally failed to deliver.

Stitched up by the Zanu PF-led government after last year's plebiscite that extended Mugabe's rule, Zim Asset was expected to deliver more than 2,2 million new jobs which the liberation movement promised during the election campaign, as well as to bring about phenomenal economic recovery. What has been witnessed thus far however is Zimbabwe sinking deeper into economic doldrums since the dissolution of the inclusive government.

An estimated 40 000 graduates from universities and other tertiary institutions are resorting to vending to make ends meet while access to crucial services such as health care has become a nightmare.

Meanwhile, Zanu PF is busy tearing itself apart in factional fights for power to rule the beleaguered country.

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