Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Zimbabwe’s "Unemployed and Poverty Occupied 80%."

Zimbabwe’s "Unemployed and Poverty Occupied 80%."
By Takura Zhangazha.*

Zimbabwe’s national economy is increasingly becoming a very complicated arena, particularly for those that are in government and influential  positions in the business sectors. It has many  twists and turns that mainly derive from the inclusive government ‘s holistic economic policy as defined by the ministries of finance, economic development, trade and commerce, and other institutions such as the Reserve Bank and state owned development/economic investment corporations.

The mantra of those that head either the relevant ministries or institutions is that the economy is ‘work in progress’. This is particularly so if they are not arguing about which political party in the inclusive government initiated the current multi-currency monetary policy or blaming each other for the economic sanctions that remain in place for Zimbabwean individuals and selected corporations.

There is however a component of the national economy that they rarely argue about loudly or acrimoniously. This is the component of Zimbabwe’s  rate of unemployed(and poverty occupied) 80%. This is not to say the issue of unemployment is not mentioned in policy documents or by policy makers. Indeed the last time it was mentioned was in the 2012 national budget that was presented before parliament in November 2011.

In it, the government, through the Ministry of Finance, proposed that there shall be at least three funds that will be set up by government to ostensibly tackle unemployment. These are given as the youth fund, a jobs fund and a small to medium enterprises fund. It is yet to be announced whether the millions allocated to the three funds have been disbursed from treasury but that is not the crux of the matter.

The key issue has been the politicized narrative around these funds as if every unemployed citizen of Zimbabwe is a member of  a political party or is generally  expected to mollycoddle one of the three parties in the inclusive government. The attendant culture to such  politicised processes inevitably becomes one of partisan political patronage as well as the unsustainable  ‘feeding at the trough’ of the few.

And this also means the 'unemployed 80%' are not going to disappear. They will remain without jobs throughout the lifespan of the inclusive government and beyond because they are continually sidelined to the periphery by those with power, access to power as well as access to resources, however acquired.

It is however necessary to explain the nature of the unemployed and therefore poverty occupied sections of Zimbabwe’s population. They are unemployed because they do not have formal jobs. Where they are in the informal sector as it is referred to, they remain at the mercy of those with political power and influence in order to remain in business. As a result, the same 1 in 8 unemployed become ‘occupied’ by a vicious cycle of political patronage, a politicized informal economy and an unsustainable social process of living from hand to mouth, even if on every other day, the hand has nothing to forward to the mouth.  The consequences of this sort of occupation has been the emergent decadence of Zimbabwe social and democratic societal fabric to the extent that it is no longer democratic values that count. Instead it becomes how close an individual is connected to a particular powerful politician or political party.

This is even more problematic in the sense that it is Zimbabwe’s younger generation that is most affected and is beginning to lose hope as to their lives ever getting better.  In a number of instances, young Zimbabweans upon leaving school or tertiary level training have been unable to find decent jobs, decent housing and access to basic health care.  Some have resorted, whether with degrees or not, to cross border trading (which the government seems intent on reducing without providing a viable alternative).

Others have taken to making it a life priority to leave the country of their birth while others have resorted to commercial sex work and general crime as a way of making ends meet.  Those that consider themselves lucky normally find themselves embedded to one political party or the other in order to get access to a gold-panning or diamond  field (only to be chased away after an election) or to become a part of the very politicized policy of economic indigenization. The latter policy which is already showing signs of being not so much about new found entrepreneurship among indigenous Zimbabweans but more about who gets what government tender or contract/account.

As it is, Zimbabwe has its own unemployed 80% which is also occupied by poverty, state and political party patronage, as well as a lack of a clear sign of hope on the horizon. Whether they will decide to follow the route of the 99% in the north who formed, for example, the Occupy Wall Street  Movement (OWS) is yet to be seen. But that they will at some point begin to make specific political noises of disgruntlement is a given, unless the inclusive government demonstrates a new found and democratic seriousness at addressing their plight. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. (please attribute if you use this article)