By Sij Ncube
18th November 2015
HARARE, November 18, 2015 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is on Friday and Saturday expected to cap thousands of graduates at Bindura and Midlands’ state universities as more and more learned youths join the ranks of unemployment amid fears of increased company closures and job losses next year due to the comatose economy.
The months of October and November have in fact been hectic for Mugabe (91) as has officiated at more than six state universities and other state-run institutions of higher learning, capping graduates.
Last week Friday he was in at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo while the previous week he officiated at the Harare Institute of Technology after having dealt with the University of Zimbabwe earlier.
Information obtained by Radio VOP indicated the Zanu PF leader, who to his credit holds more than seven degrees and is an advocate of education, has been pencilled to cap graduates on Friday at Bindura University of Science Education before proceeding to do the honours at the Midlands State University in Gweru on Saturday.
The following week he is due to perform the same rituals at Lupane State University in Matabeleland North, among other pending graduations.
But critics say the new graduates are destined to swell the ranks of unemployment, probably as vendors of airtime and other products peddled in the streets, in a country where unemployment is estimated at over 90%. The critics are adamant Mugabe’s much-hyped Zim-Asset, the Zanu-PF economic blue-print taunted as the panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic problems, has failed to create any jobs.
Under Zim-Asset, Zanu PF envisaged creating more than 2 million jobs by 2018 but the critics say it is impossible citing policy inconsistencies in government, the economic melt-down, corruption and the resurgence of political violence ahead of the next general elections.
More than 20 000 workers were retrenched since the July 17 Constitutional Court ruling which allowed employers to terminate contracts of workers after three months’ notice.
The government then rail-roaded amendments to the Labour Act, which among other things, directs employers to pay the retrenched workers two weeks’ salary for every year served but the employers have appealed against the amendment, arguing companies have no money to pay retrenchees due to the harsh economic environment.
But questions abound where jobs would come from for the new university graduates at a time companies are operating at less than 30% capacity and battling to finance operations amid a renewed economic melt-down.
Former education minister, David Coltart told VOP that the fundamental problem with Zimbabwe’s education sector for more than 2 decades is that the entire system is lopsided in favour of academics. “We have produced hundreds of thousands of graduates with excellent academic qualifications with very few jobs to accommodate them. Nothing much has changed and so the future in the short term for most of these graduates is bleak, with little prospect of employment for most,” said Coltart.
“Until there is a radical change in government policies that situation won’t change; and even when the policy changes are made it is going to take about a decade for the full benefits of the change to be realised. Sadly neither Mugabe not ZANU PF generally has a solution to the crisis because they are locked in the past and do not have the capacity to mobilise the massive international funding required transforming our education sector,” he added.
Promise Mkhwananzi, the director of Zimbabwe Informal Sector Organisation (Ziso), charged that the only solution Mugabe has for Zimbabwe is to step down. “As Ziso we are receiving jobless graduates every day in the informal sector which in itself is not only already saturated but barely able to provide the basic needs of the players in the sector due to government’s warped policies and ignorant approaches and attitudes towards the informal sector,” said Mkhwananzi, a former student leader.
Makomborero Haruzivishe, an executive member of the Zimbabwe National Students Union, concurred, saying there is no future to speak of for these new graduates.
“There is a clear dereliction of duty and responsibility by Mugabe on the issue of providing living opportunities for these graduates. Employment is an empowerment process that involves individual discovery and change. Millions of youth are denied these opportunities. As such the only solution Robert Mugabe has is to step down and give way to socio economic transformation,” he said.
Blessing Vava, a political analyst and former student activist, agrees the future looks bleak for the thousands of graduates being churned out from institutions of higher learning.
“There is no job market to consume them and this is mainly caused by the economic decay, which in fact had caused unemployment levels to rise. Most of the graduates will find themselves in the streets. Mugabe has failed this country, he has destroyed hope especially for the young people,” said Vava.
“The young people no longer have any ambitions to pursue their dreams, when we were growing up we would say I want to be a doctor, a pilot. Nowadays those ambitions and wishes are gone.”