WASHINGTON DC —
Three Zimbabwean students, who have become an overnight sensation after they protested in front of President Robert Mugabe at a graduation ceremony, say they sacrificed their lives to highlight unemployment problems being faced by thousands of graduates leaving colleges and universities every year.
The students – Tonderai Dombo, Thembinkosi Rushwaya and Alexander Mukamba – never thought they would come out of the protest alive following the recent brutalization of public protesters by state security agents.
Dombo, who was doing a Bachelor of Applied Arts General in History and Strategic War Studies and will undergo further studies at the same university doing another course, told VOA Studio 7 that “when we did that (protest) I wasn’t expecting to be alive today.
“ … I did not think that I will be alive today. I actually knew that it might be the last thing to do before I join my ancestors (dead great grandfathers and mothers) … In the end I have already lost, so for me to be afraid of dying that’s the least thing I can be afraid of because I constantly leave in fear of what I will do tomorrow. Will I be able to send my children to school if I am to get married? … And if I get married how will I look after my wife and where will I get money to pay rent?”
He said they were determined to protest as most youth have been disempowered through lack of jobs. “In the end our future has been devastated as the youth. So, the future is full of stress and you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”
According to Dombo, who wrote a winding 791 word ‘manifesto’ on his Facebook page before staging the protest, they were dragged out of the graduation ceremony by the Presidential Guard at the University of Zimbabwe, harassed and taken to Harare Central Police Station where they spent the night before criminal nuisance charges were laid against them. Each paid an admission of guilt fine of $10.
Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo lambasted the protesting students saying their actions were ill-conceived.
Professor Moyo tweeted, “Just because one is Mr Dombo does not mean they should throw stones everywhere anytime. Disrupting a graduation ceremony can cost a degree!”
Universities and colleges produce more than 20,000 students per year into the job market in Zimbabwe where independent economists say the unemployment rate has reached almost 90%.
Some Zimbabweans, including unemployed university and college graduates, individuals, civic groups and opposition political parties, have since July this year been staging protests against President Mugabe's government demanding jobs and his resignation for allegedly failing to properly run the country.
Mr. Mugabe's government has descended heavily on the protesters he is accusing of being allegedly sponsored by the West to topple him.