Uhuru celebrations amid despair

Zimbabwe turns 35 today, but there was little excitement in Bulawayo’s streets on the eve of the big day as residents bemoaned lack of jobs and a deteriorating economy.

BY Melody Chimhau

A number of residents said celebrations would be dampened by the economic gloom and rising poverty.

“It has been two years since l finished school and since then I have been unable to get employment and it pains me,” Prince Mguni (21) said.

“We are facing challenges as youths and I hope the issue of unemployment will be addressed.”

Bartholomew Ngwenya (65) said xenophobic attacks in South Africa that have left thousands of Zimbabwean immigrants vulnerable made the independence celebrations meaningless.

“The issue of high unemployment is a cause for concern,” he said. “Our children have left school, but as old as I am, I still have to take care of them because they cannot get jobs.

“If things had been different in terms of the economy everyone would be here.

“The most important thing the government should address is unemployment so people would not opt to cross borders.

“If things had been different in our country, everyone would be here, but because of lack of jobs, they are forced to take risks and go to countries like South Africa.”

An estimated three million Zimbabweans have sought refuge in South Africa after escaping grinding poverty and political repression.

The government says 1 000 immigrants are desperate to return home after they were caught up in the attacks and will be repatriated beginning tomorrow.

Andrew Sibanda, another Bulawayo resident, said it was difficult to celebrate when people were suffering.

“Independence is about celebrating what we have gone through as a country, but there is nothing to celebrate as we are suffering,” Sibanda said.

“ZimAsset (government economic blueprint) has not changed our lives.

“Instead the opposite is true as companies are closing and people are going for months without being paid.”

Zanu PF used ZimAsset as manifesto ahead of the July 31 2013 elections with the party promising two million jobs.

However, the economic crisis continues to worsen with company closures becoming the order of the day.

The Zanu PF government insists Zimbabweans have enough reason to celebrate today.

President Robert Mugabe is expected to preside over the main celebrations in Harare.

Celebrations would be held in provincial capitals with White City Stadium being the venue for Bulawayo festivities.

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