You are no saviour, youths tell Kasukuwere

HARARE - Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere appears undaunted by the overwhelming failure of his ministry’s dysfunctional youth empowerment programme.

The programme, which rides on the back of elusive bank loans for youth self-help projects, has become a source of consternation and disillusionment among youths who initially believed they had finally landed a saviour from their disempowered circumstances.

But, the youths are gradually seeing through the red herring touted as an indication of government’s belated realisation how essential youths are in driving the national development agenda.

Only a few weeks ago, disillusioned youths heckled the minister over unfulfilled promises of easily accessible bank loans targeted to empower them. It appeared the empowerment buzzword had lost its initial appeal that jolted youths to scramble for project proposals and wave them in bank executives’ faces.

During a lively meeting recently, youths expressed their disappointment with the programme.

“Most youths have not realised the benefits of empowerment. To them it is just a mirage and a flickering illusion which does not exist,” an irate youth representative said.

Innocent Dube of the Zimbabwe Christian Youth Forum expressed concern at the growing number of business proposals that are being turned down by banks, amid revelations that loans purported to have been allocated to youths never materialise.

“We have mobilised youths to write business proposals, but they did not have the technical expertise, hence we engaged those who had the knowhow. But the banks say that the minister is politicking in that he presents loans which never materialise,” Dube said.

Kasukuwere, whose portfolio includes youth empowerment, tried to redeem himself by shifting blame on the banks but admitted the failure of youth empowerment programme.

“When I talk about the reformation of the banking sector, they say that I am crazy.

“Institutions must change because our young people must enjoy benefits from their own country like anyone else in the world,” Kasukuwere.

“They do not want us to prosper. But time will tell. They will comply. We are going to ensure that this behaviour stops,” a disoriented Kasukuwere told the highly-charged youth meeting.

“I know that it has not been easy, the young people are disappointed. But we will be working with CABS.”

In 2010, Kasukuwere promised scores of youths in Matabeleland $3 million for projects which never materialised.

As if to rebuild the lack of trust about his ministry’ headline project, Kasukuwere on Thursday returned to the city promising youths that the funds were finally coming.

“After a meeting with Bulawayo youths last month, I sat down with CABS management and I think we are having good progress,” Kasukuwere said whilst speaking at Sizinda Vocational Training Centre for the handover of apprentice tool kits to students.

Kasukuwere said the youths would access the funds soon. “I’m sure we will respond on time to ensure that the funds start flowing to the region,” a seemingly apologetic Kasukuwere said.

Yet in a stunning revelation that the programme was underwritten through political party thinking, some members of the Zanu PF youth league in Bulawayo confessed that they were given money from the youth fund to gag them from admitting the scheme had unravelled.

Stunned by the revelation, Kasukuwere arbitrary ordered Bulawayo City Council to provide land for the youths and discouraged red tape in the process of acquiring land.

And the minister had another stunner coming. During proceedings at Sizinda Vocational Training Centre a master craftsman, Khumbulani Mkandla burst out, saying he had been ripped off during the training of the students.

Mkandla who was literally crying is bitter because after training the students, he is now expected to pay the $800 loan from his own pocket while he risks losing personal property to the bank which has foreclosed on the debt.

“My fellow craftsman committed suicide as a result of the loan issue,” Mkandla lamented despite Kasukuwere’s promises to meet with them and discuss their plight.

Speaking to the Daily News, Visual Arts Association of Bulawayo, and Cliford Zulu said Kasukuwere’s ministry should give grants instead of loans because loans would be difficult to repay.

“They cannot expect us to train the students using money borrowed from the bank because it needs collateral. As we speak, our fellow craftsman is on the verge of losing his property,” Zulu said.

During the handover ceremony there was an outcry from the craftsmen as Kasukuwere handed over a handsaw to the Visual Arts department.

“The art department did not get anything, but we were made to lift up a handsaw. We expected to be given the relevant equipment that matches our industry,” a visual arts student who requested not to be named said.

The vocational training centre has 120 students in the departments of carpentry, welding and visual arts among others.

State-of-the-art machinery was donated by International Labour Organisation and the ministry of youth. - Nyasha Chingono

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