SAMUEL Meso, an engineering graduate from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), is a frustrated man.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
After toiling for five years to get the coveted qualification, Meso believed employers would fall over each other for his services, but years after graduating he is on the verge of losing hope of ever getting a decent job.
He is among thousands upon thousands of graduates churned out every year by the country’s various tertiary institutions that roam the streets in a country with an estimated unemployment rate of 90%.
In 2013, the ruling Zanu PF captured the imagination of youths when it promised to create 2,2 million jobs if it won the elections that were held that same year.
However, three years after getting the mandate to rule, Zanu PF has not created employment and instead thousands have since lost their jobs due to economic collapse.
The unfulfilled promises have put the party on a spot, with agitated youths now openly demanding jobs. On Wednesday the youths wanted to take to the streets to demonstrate their anger.
Their graduation gowns would be the dress code in a symbolic gesture that would pile pressure on a government that is already under siege.
“Unemployment is the main issue,” Meso said referring to the planned demonstration.
“The government promised 2,2 million jobs in 2013 and now three years later, we have got unemployment hovering at 91%.
“More than 100 000 jobs were lost up until 2015. Our own universities and other tertiary institutions are churning out more than 17 000 graduates every year and the situation is disheartening,” he added.
“I am motivated to challenge the status quo, particularly because after completing a five-year programme in engineering at Nust, I expected to get employed in my country of birth.”
The Zimbabwe Coalition of Unemployed Graduates was last week denied clearance by the police to hold the march, but the organisers have vowed to fight for their right to protest.
“A lot of questions have been raised on whether we will continue to stand for this cause or risk being abducted. My response is that if not me, who else is going to take up the challenge?” Meso said.
“We are citizens and graduates and after all, we are all equal.
“We shall continue with our fight for the 21st century leadership and pan-Africanism of economic rights and equal opportunities, especially until the issue of unemployment is adequately resolved.”
Kudzai Hove, a former Zimbabwe National Students Union treasurer and a Nust graduate, said their protest would go beyond demands for jobs as they believe the country’s problems are rooted in politics.
“Our main agenda is that of unemployment, so we identified the major root causes, which are corruption, policy inconsistencies, blatant disregard of the rule of law and nepotism,” Hove said.
“Personally, I was motivated to undertake this initiative when I realised that government had blocked my dream to make a contribution to national development through the setting up of my own company.
“I was in the process of putting together an IT [information technology] solutions company, but my dream was shattered after I approached the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education intending to do business with schools and that proposal was turned down.”
Hove said they were inspired by Harare pastor Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag campaign that led to an unprecedented stayaway early this month.
President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly threatened Mawarire for standing up to his rule, but Hove said they were unfazed.
“We want everyone to stand up and force the wrong policy [banning importation of certain products] that was implemented without people’s input to be suspended and reversed and all the gains of corrupt and illegal activities by senior government officials and those connected to it be forfeited to the State,” he said.
“Mugabe should first of all take back his words concerning Mawarire. We also want him to fire and imprison all corrupt Cabinet ministers. Finally, he should take a rest.”
Howard Madya, an accounting graduate from Chinhoyi University said they also wanted to meet Mugabe to present their grievances.
He said as unemployed youths, they wanted to know what became of the $15 billion in diamond revenue that the president claimed cannot be accounted for.
“We want the president to address the issue of unemployment to the ordinary Zimbabwean citizens,” he said.
“We also want him to address the economic crisis because it is now in a coma.
“Zimbabweans are the directors of this country and him, Mugabe, as the CEO, must report to the directors, who are the people.
“We are demanding answers and he should give us the answers that we are looking for.
“The plight of unemployed graduates in this country is so bad and at the moment there are several people who are failing to collect their results because of outstanding fees. What makes us continue pushing for answers is unemployment, hunger, poverty.”
He added: “What should we tell our parents and guardians who were paying school fees for us?
“Our parents who toiled for us to go to school through various sources like vending need to see the results of their toiling, but with what is happening now, what can we tell them?”
In February, the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation revealed that more than 2 000 university graduates in Harare and Bulawayo had resorted to street vending as the economy continued on a downward spiral.
Nathaniel Manheru, a State media columnist believed to Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, last week scoffed at Zimbabweans demanding that Zanu PF fulfil its promise to create the 2,2 million jobs.
Manheru said Zanu PF had no obligation to create jobs for opposition supporters that did not vote for the ruling party.
The comments angered many Zimbabweans who described Manheru as arrogant, but yesterday he penned another piece, declaring he stood by his words.