HAVING grown up in Nyama resettlement area of Karoi, Tatenda (not real name) only decided to settle in Harare after acquiring a degree from the University of Zimbabwe.
He had dreams of a good life, but they were shattered after his job-hunting escapades failed to yield anything, as companies, on whose doors he knocked, were either retrenching or had frozen new posts.
With encouragement from friends in similar situations, he turned to traditional healers (n’angas) and proliferating prophets seeking an ointment for finding the elusive dollar.
“I’ve been to a lot of n’angas to enhance my chances of getting money,” he admits reluctantly after half an hour of cajoling.
“I have my degree, but as you can see, I am in informal trading because there are no jobs. Due to competition, you need an edge to succeed in informal trade.”
Another graduate, who identified himself as Arnold, admitted that many young graduates, with nothing to show for the education they struggled for, were prepared to do anything to stay afloat.
“Desperate circumstances call for desperate measures,” he said.
“It’s painful to note that older men and women are the ones who are driving modern cars and living in good houses, yet us, the youth, have nothing. Now I sell second-hand clothes and, as you can see, a lot of people are doing the same. So it’s a tough situation, hence, I decided to boost my business by using some voodoo.”
Some of the youths said they sought help at shrines belonging to different apostolic (white-garment) sects.
I’m doing whatever it takes to get money to fend for my family, looking after my parents and siblings. Because this government has failed to manage the economy, we have no hope for a better future, so I would rather sacrifice my soul to succeed.”
A 25-year-old cross-border trader, who identified herself as Grace, admitted that they imported a lot of paraphernalia for money-making rituals.
“Some bring anointed oil, rings and bangles across the borders. Others use traditional juju to help them avoid troubles associated with Zimra [Zimbabwe Revenue Authority] officials at the border,” she said. “Even as we sell our wares in the city centre, we also need something else, you know, to boost sales.”
A “prophet” from one of the many apostolic sects admitted that, while in the past they mainly used to help people who wanted to find marriage partners or have curses removed from their families, they now have a new clientele seeking relief from economic challenges or to boost their small-scale trade.
A local traditional healer weighed in, saying there was now an influx of young people coming to his shrine seeking financial help in their businesses.
“They are coming to get help for their small-scale trade, particularly vendors. Most youths are desperate for a better future,” he said.
Independent economists say Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate hovers at around 80%, but the government puts it at just over 11%, arguing that most people are now employed in the informal sector.
It is estimated that over 300 000 students are churned out of schools, colleges and universities every year to join millions who are already unemployed