As The Economy Bites, Gwanda Youths Engage In Crime
To counter economic hardships worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic Gwanda youths have opened spaza shops while some are gold miners by night.
In Gwanda districts youths say dying from the COVID-19 VIRUS is much better that dying from hunger—for now, even amid the lockdown, they will do all they can to feed themselves and their families.
GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — The struggling economy, unemployment worsened by the pandemic, has pushed youths in Gwanda to set up unregularised operations, risking contracting and spreading COVID-19.
“They have shut down the economy providing no alternatives or solutions to ensure our survival,” says Nomphumelo Nyathi, a 26-year-old Marriage Quarters township resident in Gwanda town.
“And to make matters worse, COVID-19 swept away all employment opportunities.”
Nompumelelo Nyathi, a Gwanda graduate in local government studies
Nyathi tells The Citizen Bulletin she has applied for jobs in several municipalities but has received no offers.
Nyathi, who stays with her parents and two-year-old child, is among many Gwanda youths grappling with economic hardships worsened by the pandemic and now unable to fend for themselves.
“I don’t want to slip into crime and get arrested, but I also don’t want to starve with my child.”
She has set up a spaza shop in her parents' backyard to put food on the table. Nyathi says she is aware this might land her in trouble with law enforcement agents.
The coronavirus lockdown brought in to stem the flow of fresh cases, however, is placing an additional burden on those already struggling to cope amid dire economic circumstances
Those who depend on daily earnings are struggling to make ends meet.
According to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), 2019 Labour Force and Child Labour Survey, the informal sector dominates with 2.2 million or 76 percent of the country’ economically active people.
ALSO READ: COVID-19: Children With Chronic Ailments Suffer In Nkayi
Informal traders, under current lockdown protocols, are not classified as essential service providers.
“The spaza is my only decent means of earning a living currently available to me,” she adds, saying many residents are now operating food stalls in their homes.
Her trading hours start from 3pm when formal shops close as per COVID-19 regulations.
“I operate mostly during curfew timelines. Customers flock at different times and I can’t chase them away and am no longer scared of police raids.”
Community Youth Development Trust (CYDT Matabeleland South) programs officer Shelton Maphosa says most economic activities of youths who were employed in the informal sector are grounded.
“Now most of them resort to selling illegal substances which are now high in the communities of Gwanda, they have opened shebeens and sell cheap alcohol to residents.”
Maphosa says youths who were into mining are now gambling, they also reportedly organise themselves to travel to mining sites during the afternoon, so that they mine overnight as few law enforcement agents do checkups in the mines at night.
“Vova Mine, an illegal gold mining site notorious for violent crimes including murder and Collen Bawn, are their favourite mining sites,” he says.
Givemore Munemo, an artisanal miner for the past six years, is among those who now work at night.
Artisanal miners fear dying of hunger than to COVID-19. Graphic by The Citizen Bulletin
“We are risking it all just to put food on the table,” he narrates. “Violating curfew regulations is the only way to survive.”
“This disease (COVID-19) is said to kill within days after contracting it but starvation drags for weeks and months before you die.”
Givemore Munemo, an artisanal miner
“So, some of us are not scared of it (COVID-19). Same applies with being arrested, we pay fines and get back to the shafts at night,” he says.
Munemo adds that some mine owners live in fear that if they stop mining operations and go on self-isolation, they might lose their claims to other miners who may invade or takeover during their absence.
In March 2020, the Government imposed a 21-day hard lockdown, which was later extended by two weeks, promising to provide a bailout package to vulnerable groups.
But many claim they did not receive the funds.
“The government should have cushioned the vulnerable and the youth. Announcing lockdown to keep people at home without safety nets is not helpful. Poverty is worse than the virus,” Nyathi tells The Citizen Bulletin.
Matabeleland South Provincial spokesperson Inspector Loveness Mangena says a consolidated list of arrests for violating COVID-19 measures is only available from Harare police headquarters.
Do you have a hyperlocal story to share?
COVID-19, Economic hardships, Gwanda youths, Informal sector, Unemployment
- Last updated on .