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Zimbabwe Briefing - Issue 121
in Zimbabwe Coalition (SA Regional Office)
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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”
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.
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.
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in Zimbabwe fact
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