Many Zimbabwean youth have expressed frustration at the government of President Robert Mugabe, saying it lacks the political will to improve their lives. On the top of the list of disgruntlements is the government’s failure to create the two-million jobs it promised in the run-up to the 2013 general elections.
For many of the country’s youth, their future prospects appear bleak, despite a projected economic growth of 2.7% in 2016. In 2015, Zimbabwe’s economy registered a marginal 1.5% percent growth due to lack of foreign direct investment, fears over the country’s indigenization program and other related issues.
Against this background, some Zimbabwean youth say they are failing to get formal jobs as the economy appears to be shrinking fast.
Joanna Mamombe, a graduate of the University of Zimbabwe is among those affected, as she’s still looking for work, one year after graduating. Mamombe said she has lost hope of ever fulfilling her dreams, which now seem shattered. She believes the only youth who stand a chance of getting a job in Zimbabwe today, are those with links to top government officials.
“It’s very sad that the government of today, everything that seems to be happening now, it’s partisan,” said Mamombe. “Especially considering the funds that are being allocated to the youth. You find that that if you are not aligned to their political party, definitely, you’ll not get any cent from the youth fund.”
Another unemployed youth Philip Jongwe, says he is disappointed the that government is not prioritizing funding education and skills provision for the nation's young people.
“Personally I am a disgruntled somebody when it come to the respect of the youth in Zimbabwe,” Jongwe said. “Its so regrettable that the government of Zimbabwe, they actually forget that the youth are integral stakeholders in as far as the development of each and every nation is concerned.”
Jongwe further accused state officials of suppressing their constitutionally guaranteed rights to protest. Peaceful protests in Zimbabwe are normally blocked by police, a feared arm of the state.
Tariro Senderai, who works for Organizing Zimbabwe, a non-governmental organization focusing on youth development, argued that the government is only good at oppressing young people instead of creating opportunities for them.
Senderai pointed to the proposed 2016 national budget allocation by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who she said only committed $10-million towards youth development.
“I just feel as though a lot of thought should be put into the national budget considering that young people consist of 68% of the national population,” Senderai said. “We need to be considered in a massive way in terms of investment as well.”
Former student leader Obey Sithole, agreed, noting that the current political leadership in Zimbabwe has no desire to transform the lives of youths.
“Even if you take the national objective, in the first sections of the constitution, the youth are taken as the priority. They are one of the national objectives, among many national objectives. But when it comes to operation on the ground, there’s no respect at all,” Sithole said.
Youth president of the opposition Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, Fortune Munyonga, is still holding President Mugabe to account for the jobs he and his party promised the youth in 2013, for their votes. Munyonga said with hundreds of companies shutting down following the 2013 election, which were disputed by opposition groups, including the Movement for Democratic Change, he’s doubtful of positive change.
Despite the accusations of lack of political will, Youth and Indigenization Minister, Patrick Zhuwao, who is Mr. Mugabe’s nephew, said the government is in fact doing all it can to improve the lives of youth in Zimbabwe.
Zhuwao infact shifted some of the blame to Zanu PF youth, who he said are failing to repay loans created under youth empowerment programs to cater for the needy. He says defaulters should be punished as they are crippling black empowerment programs.
“Currently we’ve got $5.1million plus $1.7, which makes it $6.8million that has been locked up by those that are not paying back,” Zhuwao asserted.
Political and social commentator, David Masunda, said unless the government can find a way to keep the youth employed and hopeful, by reviving the crumbling and collapsed industries, thousands will continue to leave the country annually, to seek greener pastures in neighboring nations like South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
“Universities and technical colleges are churning out youths almost every day, but industry is on its knees, there’s no employment, and most of them are not being forced to join the informal sector even when they have got master’s degrees, or even high technical qualifications,” Masunda said.
Statistics show that more than 85% of the country’s population is unemployed though official figures are pegged at almost 11%.