The constant shutting down of Bulawayo industries, retrenchment of thousands of workers and the general downturn of the Zimbabwe economy have forced most residents to live from hand to mouth.
Thousands of people are now surviving on selling cheap Chinese goods, sweets, used women’s underwear and mobile phone airtime, among many other items.
As a result, moving around the streets of Bulawayo is now a nightmare as vendors jostle for public attention to sell their wares which also include gray soil dug from some parts of the city believed to be containing iron compounds benefiting pregnant women.
A large number of university graduates have been forced by massive unemployment to invade the streets in order to make a living. It is no longer surprising to find someone in the city wearing a suit and selling various wares in public.
This has become part of life here as thousands of people have been left jobless by the massive de-industrialization of Bulawayo.
Reason Ngwenya, chairman of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) - western region - says the current unemployment rate in Bulawayo, estimated at more than 90 percent, is unprecedented in the history of Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
Ngwenya says government has done nothing to alleviate the situation as it is failing to save industries that are constantly shutting down due to lack of capital.
He says the situation is worsened by lack of initiatives cushioning local entrepreneurs from the rising costs of local services including water and electricity.
Thabiso nyoni, who once worked for Merlin (Pvt) Limited and lost her job when the company shut down, says she is suffering due to lack of formal employment.
Nyoni, a widow, says she is now failing to make ends meet and send her children to school.
At times, she says, her children are forced to bed in the streets in order to raise money for a meal and school fees.
Retrenchee Zibusiso Nkomo says unemployed residents are finding it difficult to pay various bills.
Percy Mcijo, Matabeleland regional officer of the ZCTU, says most industries have been left as empty shells which have been converted to churches.
More than 100 companies have shut down in the city since the formation of the unity government in 2009 and the future looks bleak for local residents, who have over the years depended on industries to make a living.
State efforts to rescue the collapsing industries using a $40 million rescue package - the Distressed and Marginalized Areas Fund launched last year - have failed due to political bickering among the parties in the coalition government.