Millions fight for scraps in unemployment sector(01-02-07)

BY GIFT PHIRI
HARARE - A faded and battered company ID is about all Simbarashe Moyo (42) has to show for what once seemed like a secure job offering the promise of a comfortable retirement.
Only two years ago, the famished but neatly-dressed Moyo was a manager at a tyre manufacturing company.<

BR>Now, as he waits in a queue for employment outside Waverly, a bed linen manufacturing company in Graniteside Light Industry, he is complaining about how difficult it is for men in their 40s to find work.
Like many firms that sprouted up in Zimbabwe’s boom post-independence era, Moyo’s company went bust as the economy withered and his company could not find foreign currency needed to import essential industrial inputs.
After being pushed out of employment, he quickly ran out of money. His problem was compounded when he was forced to join the more than 100,000 rendered homeless following the brutal army-led Operation Murambatsvina.
Tucking the card back into the pocket of his fading and threadbare Van Heusen shirt, he said he was still hoping to find a job.
“Waverly recruits casual workers now and then, but it pays so little,” he said. “The government should be doing more to support such companies.”
For Moyo and other jobless across Zimbabwe, they no longer want to know the causes of the crisis, which they say, are too clear for all. All they want are jobs that they say are as important as any other human rights and basic freedoms, which they have been denied for too long.
“If you keep someone in any job for too long, they become inefficient and corrupt,” Moyo said. “I strongly feel we need a government with new ideas to turnaround this economy and create wealth and jobs in our country. Anything short of this is unacceptable.”
At Hopley Farm, a rundown transit camp where the jobless and homeless were sheltered following Operation Murambatsvina, was a man in his 30s who asked not to be identified. So far, things are going well for him, he has found a job as a handyman at a garage and expects to move out of Hopley Farm when he has saved enough for a deposit and rentals.
Having spent the whole of last year sleeping rough at the transit camp, whiling away time playing a game of “draft”, he is determined not to return to Hopley.
“There is nothing good about being jobless and homeless… My dream is to make enough money to afford my own rent and look after my family,” said the former “spannerboy”, who moved to Harare from Mutoko in his teens.
If he succeeds, he will be part of a lucky minority.
At an employment agency in central Harare – the scores of youths milling there jokingly call it “the university” because they say you can find people there qualified in as many disciplines as you would at any campus.
“I spent more than 16 years in school studying only to end up like this. It’s disappointing my brother and this government has completely let us down,” said Tawanda, a streetwise youth in his early 20s.
“I really hope these guys abandon this 2010 thing and allow us to vote next year. I for one will vote against unemployment, corruption, and inefficient governance.”
The now sizeable gathering around our news crew urged him on.
“My brother it is disappointing that three years after finishing college, and coming out with flying colours, I still have to depend on the paltry income from my mothers’ vending business. Its so embarrassing you know,” he said.
Like most of his fellow job-seekers now urging him on, the 23-year-old Tawanda was born and bred in the overcrowded high-density suburb of Mbare. But his early life, as he later recounted to our news team, was particularly hard and trying.
When his father, a bicycle mechanic, died after a short illness in 1996, his mother had to take up the little-paying vegetable vending business at Mbare Musika to get Tawanda through school, hoping he would sustain family after completing college. But his mother’s hopes have been a façade, drifting further away with each passing day.
Such are the frustrations of many of the more than 300,000 young men and women being churned out of Zimbabwe’s schools each year to chase a meagre 5,000 to 8,000 jobs created by the formal sector annually.
More than two million people are trying to survive through small self-help projects in the tough world of the informal sector, now Zimbabwe’s biggest employer.
Enterprising Zimbabweans are selling home-made everything, from the famous Ice Lolo – an indigenous ice-cream made from a mixture of baobab fruit powder, water and sugar; to samoosas, doughnuts and scones; while others are into welding, peanut butter making, cross border trading and even prostitution.
For Tawanda and other jobless people, the economic crisis virtually cancels any prospects for any new jobs being created any time soon.
Mugabe and Zanu (PF) promise to undertake job-creating programmes and will next month open the Chitepo Ideology College, where unemployed youths would be trained in the doctrines of the governing party.
But Tawanda and his colleagues were clearly not impressed by such promises because, as Tawanda put it, “the government has lied to us many times before”.
According to Tawanda, who studied accounts and economics at ‘A’ level, the government is lying by saying that the economic collapse has been caused by sanctions, the fall of international market prices for the country’s key exports and the bilateral dispute between Harare and London.
“I am out of employment because of bad policies such as wanton violation of property rights. It’s got nothing to do with sanctions, but everything to do with investor confidence,” Tawanda said, wagging his finger.

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