The five, who grew up in the crime-ridden sprawling town about 25 kilometres from Harare, recently launched Chitungwiza Community Development Network (CCDN), a vehicle with which they aim to fight increasing delinquent behaviour among youths.
CCDN director Eddington Shayanowako said they intend to assist youths in the town to start income generating projects or promote existing ones in an effort to drive the youths away from rampant crime.
“We aim to promote entrepreneurship among the youths in Chitungwiza, rural Seke and Mashonaland East since there are high levels of unemployment in Zimbabwe,” said Shayanowako.
“Our organisation will provide a network facility for the youths and help them come up with feasible business plans.”
The youth empowerment venture, which is being bankrolled by charity organisations, was officially launched a fortnight ago at a ceremony punctuated by road-show campaigns to popularise CCDN activities.
Most youths in Chitungwiza, a town with an estimated two million people, are unemployed and are set to benefit through self-initiated projects such as carpentry, building, welding, poultry and theatre.
Shayanowako said the project, with a membership of 850 established and aspiring entrepreneurs, would benefit the disabled, HIV and Aids patients and other disadvantaged members of the society.
“This will go a long way in contributing towards the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by families, households and the broader Chitungwiza community,” said the 34-year-old director, who has also established a website for the organisation.
It also publishes a Chitungwiza community bulletin where youths share ideas about ways of improving their projects and the town as a whole. Some youths were upbeat about the project.
Festus Chihwayi (23) sees the project as a window of opportunity and hopes it would help improve his business network base. “As a carpenter, who has no proper working space and storage, it would be a great opportunity for me to establish a proper warehouse and be an employer in the community,” said Chihwayi.
Another youth, Tapiwa Machimbidzwe who qualified as a brick-layer at the Harare Polytechnic in 1995, said he struggled to get formal employment after completing his studies prompting him to start his own business venture.
“But my project continues to be hampered by lack of capital to buy modern equipment,” said Machimbidzwe, who hopes CCDN would help him network and expand his business operations.
Cone Textiles (Pvt) Ltd, which was a major employer in Chitungwiza, closed shop during the economic meltdown period, forcing many people out of work. The new companies that had been started following the dollarisation in 2009 have only managed to employ a few youths from the town.
This has forced many youths to resort to housebreaking, muggings, murder, general hooliganism and other anti-social behaviour like excessive beer drinking and prostitution for survival.
Sceptics suspect CCDN could be campaign tool
Other youth entrepreneurs were sceptical asking if it was not a political project designed to coincide with the pending election scheduled for this year or 2013.
Politicians usually come up with cosmetic projects, mainly targeting the youths, just before elections to buy support but forget about the ventures once the polls are over.
But Shayanowako dismissed the notion saying CCDN, established in August 2010 and is registered with the Zimbabwe Youth Council, was apolitical. Very few youths have benefited from the government’s empowerment drive despite the hype being given to the programme.
Those that have benefited are relatives, sons or daughters of highly influential Zanu PF politicians and the party’s youth militia. It is no surprise that the small-scale industry has failed to blossom and establish itself as a potential source of revenue and creation of formal employment in the country, where unemployment tops 85%.