THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Zimbabwe Briefing - Issue 121
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
October 31
, 2013

Download this document
- Acrobat PDF version (1.41MB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking here

Youth Indigenization Loans: When saying the right things is not enough

When the Vice President Joice Mujuru officially commissioned the youth empowerment fund code named “Kurera-Ukondla Youth Fund”, there were some mixed reactions centering on whether this fund was going to work or it was one of those political gimmicks trying to lure young people, especially after the failed violent national youth service.

As the name says it, “Kurera or Ukondla” (meaning nurturing youngsters), the spirit of the fund was self explanatory and Zimbabwean youths across the political divide waited in anticipation for good things to start rolling following the Government of National Unity (GNU) which rescued the nation from near collapse.

This fund came at the advent of the Inclusive Government (IG) which was characterized by policy contradictions as the three political parties involved used government as a platform to settle unfinished covert political scores of 2008 elections. It also came against the backdrop of an economy that was recovering from a negative 14% growth rate in 2008, and youth unemployment of almost 85%, and unclear distribution of proceeds from extractive minerals.

Public skepticism emanated from suspicions about the fund’s motive amid doubts about the capacity of young people growing up in such an economy to repay the loans so that the fund can actually become a revolving fund.

What made the situation worse was that the then Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister was from Zanu-PF, and hence the allocation of the funds were largely towards youths from that political party given that they were the majority applicants as those from the opposition shunned anything controlled by that party.

Whilst the people responsible for managing the fund try to convince Zimbabweans that the party had no role to play in the fund allocation, leaving everything to the banks who vet the proposals, it is clear that most of the beneficiaries are linked to the ruling party. Also connected to accessing the fund is the ideology of indigenization which many young people believed is a preserve of the ruling party and its supporters. This attitude made it very difficult to take and run this fund as business and not a charity or humanitarian cause linked to the ruling elite. The same attitude discouraged youths from the opposition, who without even trying, concluded the same.

For the entire span of the Inclusive Government, there were calls by mainly Civil Society Organisations to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the allocation of the fund and the roles played by different stakeholders. The publishing of names sometime this year of all the beneficiaries was not the solution to transparency, it lacked critical details of informing how the fund is being disbursed and how much has been repaid. No clear mechanisms have been made public on who can access the fund and what it takes for a proposal to be accepted given that many youths never undergo basic proposal writing and management techniques. Zimbabwe, whilst it might celebrate 98% literacy rate, falls short of ensuring that this huge percentage can meaningfully contribute to youths’ own personal development given the number of proposals that were turned away by the banks.

According to the report submitted at the Zanu-PF party’s indigenization and empowerment conference in early October 2013, only 1952 projects were approved out of a total of 13 201 applications between January 2012 and January 2013. This is a clear indication of either skewed loan allocation, or total disregard of different capacities and contextual environments from which these youths are drawn from.

Of the 4000 individuals (including projects) who accessed the loans that range from $1000 to $25000, only 30% have managed to repay the money. This is not surprising given the surging unemployment levels, and it exposes the government in its strategies. Currently, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate does not show any signs of recovery, given the backdrop of economic collapse faced in the last decade. As of 2011, of the 6.1 million people making up the labour force, 59% of them were aged 15 to 34 years, showing the importance of the youth as economic agents contributing immensely to labour supply for growth and development in the country. Worryingly, current figures show that four out of every five unemployed persons are the youth.

And these are the youths getting shocking amounts without any financial discipline. The youth are also 83% of contributing family workers, 56 percent of own account workers in communal farming and 69 percent of casual employees. These types of employment are “vulnerable employment” because of the very low incomes earned and also they don’t have any social protection.

The information gap and knowledge gap that exists between youths from Matabeleland and those from the rest of the country was heavily exposed during disbursement of the fund.

Only 3% of the $10 million fund had been distributed in Matabeleland by June 2012 with reason given being that the proposals were not ‘fundable’. This poor consideration of affirmative action by taking into account historical circumstances and other post independence disturbances that led to youths in Zimbabwe not having equal opportunities is sad and unfortunate especially for a government that proudly calls itself, pro-poor and people centred.

Many young people are aware that this programme is being done for political mileage, and are not convinced that there is any need to pay back given that they paid by either beating, looting and killing during the 2008 elections for those who were youth militia, or because their relatives are the decision makers within the party at local or national level.

The failure by the government to expose the errant debtors and how much they owe goes to show how this programme might have benefitted youths closely linked to the ruling party if not bigwigs in the party. Saying the right things is different from doing the right things. If minister Nhema is genuine in his statement that “ . . .empowerment requires discipline among us and, as such, we should play by the rules of business. . .I am talking about business ethics, the mindset, when you borrow, you must pay back” (The Sunday Mail-Business; 20-26 October 2013), then there are opportunities for young people if his thinking and orientation is not swayed by Zanu-PF rhetoric, that has seen indigenization programme creating a new elite class, as well as elite capture of pro-poor programmes. “Saying the right things is different from doing the right things”

The question that as young people we continue asking is that, who is more indigenous than the other - black or white, MDC or Zanu-PF or those who voted ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ during the referendum? How can Zimbabwe move to a stage where we can separate the government from the state and especially from the ruling party? It’s sad that instead of addressing the nation on the state of affairs within his minis-try on youth fund, Minister Nhema chose to address Zanu-PF on government policy. It is with this living reality that for the next five years young people have to endure with Zanu-PF and their influence on government policy for as long as it assists them to retain power. This might have a serious impact on the quest to uplift the economy so that the loans might make sense in this vampirous economy where cost of living has been reported to be surging.

For as long as the Zanu-PF government does not address the fundamentals that shape the economy, such as transparency, corruption and constitutionalism, genuine empowerment of youths will remain a mirage.

Sydney Chisi is the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ) Director. He writes in his personal capacity and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the position of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

Download full document

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe fact sheet

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.