Today Zimbabwe celebrates 37 years of independence from white minority rule. As a Zimbabwean, my colleague Maunze Rumbidzai tells us below about the current situation in her Homeland.
This is a day of great importance. Independence Day is a day of joy for many because following independence, Zimbabwe was a country that promised a bright future and many opportunities for its people. Today, the young people of Zimbabwe do not see their future as very promising in the land. Once a country that used to be a huge exporter in the region, Zimbabwe can barely meet the needs of its citizens. In recent years the country has faced food and water shortages. Round the clock electricity has become a thing of the past. Problems I never had to worry about growing up in Zimbabwe in the late 80s to early 90s. Most of the youth in Zimbabwe have a more laid back approach to Independence Day. They perceive it more or less as just another holiday, another opportunity to meet up with family and friends and be merry.
It is no secret that many youth worldwide are unemployed. Zimbabwe is not exempted from this phenomenon. Though it is difficult to get a precise figure of the rate of unemployment in Zimbabwe, it is believed to be over 95%, with youth unemployment estimated to be more than 70%.
Every year the local universities and colleges in Zimbabwe are producing graduates that have no guarantee and no hope of securing gainful employment upon completion of their studies. Considering that most industries and companies have had to shut down due to economic difficulties in Zimbabwe, most of the skills that the youth are gaining in the formal sector are being made obsolete by the reality in Zimbabwe.
Most young Zimbabweans are forced to migrate to neighboring countries (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia etc.) with the hope of securing lucrative employment in those countries that have stronger economies compared to Zimbabwe. However, it is not everybody who can afford to make this move; it is not everybody who has the courage to go to a foreign land where they know nobody.
When I visited Zimbabwe in late 2016, I met several friends and acquaintances who have had to readjust their lives. Many have given up hope of being employed and have started small projects of their own which are not always sustainable. It had been five years since my last visit to Zimbabwe and I was motivated by their determination. When one reads the news from a place far away from home, you are often left thinking that the country is going under, but somehow the country is still functioning. It is a country full of hope. Of course there are those that feel that things will get worse before they can get better but I was moved by the hope that is alive in Harare.
You may probably be wondering how the people in Zimbabwe are surviving if most of them are not working. I have come to realize over the years that Zimbabweans are very resourceful people. They have not stopped taking care of their families and loved ones no matter how minimal the resources at their disposal are. The unemployment statistics I quoted above refer to formal sector unemployment. Zimbabweans have created jobs for themselves as sculptors, vendors, seamstresses, tailors, you name it. The informal sector is in full bloom in Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabweans are their own bosses!
Russell, a youth who grew up in SOS Children’s Village Bindura says going about things the normal way is a luxury in Zimbabwe. He has chosen not to do it the normal way. He has had a front row seat to the challenges faced by many of his mates who received a formal education but have been unemployed for months if not years since completion of their studies. Russell has decided that he can best secure his future by honing his musical skills. He has a plan to form a band with his schoolmates which will be performing nationwide. He is currently attending the Zimbabwe College of Music. His goal is to not have to rely on anybody to create employment for him – but to rely on his talent.
His favorite instrument is the mbira which he is often seen carrying around. He does not hesitate to play a tune whenever he finds a willing and patient ear wherever he goes.