“They should fire as many as they can, even if they can fire all of them,” regaled Lloyd, a second hand clothes vendor plying his business on a street pavement near Harare’s Copa Cabana bus rank.
The illegal vendor was joyously commenting on the massive job losses that were triggered by a July 17 Supreme Court ruling that gave employers an easy loophole to terminate employment contracts without bearing the burden of huge retrenchment costs.
The ruling practically opened floodgates of job losses as employers stampeded to make the best of the opportunity to release extra workers on the already flooded street.
Reports suggest that 6 000 workers had lost their jobs across all sectors of the economy inside a week.
Added Lloyd: “We have no sympathies whatsoever for them because they are the ones who have been repeatedly saying ma-vendor anosemesa (vendors are an eyesore) and urging the authorities to chase us away from the CBD (central business district).
They rejoiced when the City Council started removing us from the streets. As I speak, our colleagues are in police cells. They did not even care that, just like them, we have families to look after. So why should we care when, all of a sudden, they are getting fired from those jobs? Now they will be joining us on the street kuti tisemese takawanda (they will be joining us in being a nuisance).”
Teurai, a photographic studio sales representative, who canvasses for customers at the intersection of Jason Moyo and Leopold Takawira, just across from Harare’s Town House share Lloyd’s sentiments.
“They (the working class people) were saying if we do not have anything to do in Harare, we should go back to the rural areas. Now it will be them who would be going first. Hapana-hapana,” he said gleefully.
This phenomenon called “hapana-hapana” in local parlance meaning “you lose, I lose”, is not entirely new in human relationships, especially where people have to compete for very limited opportunities, although it is more commonly found in politics where rivals, even those in the same party, sabotage each other’s chances of success.
Lloyd and Taurai’s sentiments, uncharitable as they might appear, are shared by many in the informal side of the economy, a majority of whom joined the sector hoping to bid time until a chance to land that promised formal job, with all its glitters — a pay cheque, (possibly) a car, a house, pension, medical aid, easy bank loans and all the other featherbedding — presented itself.
The anticipation is not unexpected of a people released by an education system that thoroughly prepared them for a formal job market. Sadly many of these people have waited for this moment for years — even decades — like they are waiting for the Second Coming. So frustration, anger and then hopelessness grow naturally by the day.
Such has become the life in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, exactly two years this week, after the July 31 harmonised elections that brought back President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party back into power.
While the opposition insist that Zanu(PF)’s “win” can only be explained within the realms of rigging and wanton violence, ruling party mandarins are quick to squelch these allegations; always insist their electoral success is a measure of the popularity of their policies.
One of Zanu(PF)’s vote catching promises was that it was going to create 2,2 million jobs under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), a five-year economic programme that runs from 2013 to 2018.
With two years already gone, scenes as those described above characterise increasing social friction in a country that appears to be losing more jobs than it is creating.
This has prompted some cheeky netizens to take to the social media where they play the Devil’s Advocate as they defend the party by arguing that ZANU-PF is dutifully delivering on each and every of its elections promises, including the one on jobs. The only problem is that the electorate misunderstood the party’s promise and is therefore fondling wrong expectations. Thus the correct position is that the party promised to cause 2,2 million job losses and it is faithfully delivering on that promise.
Others say the party promised to create 2,2 million vendors inside five years and judging by the ground it has covered so far, that target might as well be surpassed.
While efforts to get a latest progress report from Zanu(PF)’s spokesman Simon Khaya- Moyo — who doubles up as minister for Economic Planning and Investment Promotion —this week yielded no results, as he was not picking calls, the former diplomat has been quoted in the media recently caroling praises for his party.
He told The Herald recently: “The Zanu(PF)-led government of President Robert Mugabe is making remarkable progress in its quest to accelerate the implementation of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation and this is despite continued existence of sanctions and the futile attempts by the opposition and its ghost economic analysts to suggest otherwise.
“Many fair-minded people, including genuine economic analysts, seem to share our view that President Mugabe’s government has taken bold economic steps in the right direction.”
He went on to give the example of the coming of foreign investors fromcountries like China, Russia, France and Britain as ample testimony that the party’s programmes was working.
While the promiser appears to believe he is doing his best, ballpark figures being bandied around do not help give the promisee on the ground a good reason to believe he was — again — not taken for a cheap ride.
Formal unemployment is consistently above the 80 percent watermark and this has not been help by the hundreds of companies that have closed shop since Zanu(PF) bagged another electoral victory two years ago.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) said more than 30 000 people lost jobs last year alone.
“There has been a decline in the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector from 118 600 employees to 93 100 in 2014 and the mining sector from 43 000 to 38 400,” said ZIMSTAT director, Mutasa Dzinotizei in a report.
A planned urban transport sector reform which could see the country’s 50 000 commuter omnibuses being phased out could throw another 100 000 people out of work any time.
In the next few months Zanu(PF) will exhaust the first half of its tenure and a countdown towards the 2018 elections would begin. It remains to be seen how much it would have delivered on its election promises and what new and tempting enough promises the wily old fox will come up with.