The South African country of Zimbabwe has been battling extreme poverty and unemployment for years. About 90 per cent of the country’s population is unemployed. Frustrated, youth are forced to do low-level jobs by paying some money as bribes. But the difficulties for girls are more because they have to have physical relations with the employers first to get a job, due to which many girls are becoming victims of severe diseases like AIDS.
Norman Chisunga is one of the few young people who left his village in February 2019 to reach his uncle in the capital Harare in search of a job. He was in dire need of a job. His uncle works as a merchant in the capital’s most populous city, Mbare.
24-year-old Chisunga told in a conversation with Aljazeera that in the year 2017, he did a high school diploma. He said, ‘I wanted to do any job, but there was no job anywhere.’
Like Chisunga, every young man in Zimbabwe is looking for a job, but no one gets any work. Most of the one crore 40 lakh people work in some unorganized sector for a livelihood because people are not getting any job in the country.
Chisunga was lucky to get a job a few weeks after reaching Harare. His uncle got him a job in a local fertilizer company. But he had to pay some money as a bribe for this job. They needed a job, so the employer had to spend money. “I didn’t want to go back to my village,” says Chisunga.
Chisunga was asked to pay a $100 bribe for a six-month contract job. But he did not have that much money, so first, he spent 30 US dollars (12 thousand Zimbabwean dollars) for a six-week job.
He bribed the fertilizer company for one year’s job. In the company, he carries the fertilizer weighing 50 kg on the back and keeps it in the right place.
Either money or sex for a job
Al Jazeera interviewed many Zimbabwean youths. People said that they have either given money to the employer for the lowest level of jobs or have been forced through physical relations.
Tayana Kuteura, a 24-year-old beauty therapist who now works at a shop in the capital Harare, told AlJazeera: “I wanted a job in a supermarket. The manager was demanding 50 US dollars for the job. I did not have money at that time, but I was in dire need of a job.
Employed men often ask young women like Kutura to have physical relations. Kutura narrates her experience, ‘I had to face another similar situation for a job. Once I got the job of handling the canteen, I was told that I would get the job only if I slept with the owner there. I didn’t take that job.’
Kutura further said, ‘I know a girl who got infected with HIV searching for a job. She was offered a job in exchange for sex by a newly opened supermarket owner. She agreed and took the job. With the money from the job, she bought a car, and after some time, she became a supermarket manager. But now, she is HIV positive.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis. Their inflation is at its peak, and the country cannot import many essential goods. The country’s production is also low, and foreign exchange reserves are empty. In 2009, the country adopted the US dollar to control inflation, but due to its unsatisfactory results, the Zimbabwe dollar was adopted again in the year 2019. Inflation in April was around 100 per cent.
A wave has started in Zimbabwe to take advantage of the people desperate for unemployment. Managers working in companies or people in high positions give jobs to people in exchange for bribes and sex and make a lot of money.
A broker named Banga works similarly with the manager of a fertilizer company. He has agents who look for clients at different places and take bribes from job seekers to deliver them to the manager. These agents take bribes of up to 30 or 100 US dollars from people.
Due to Zimbabwe’s poor economic condition, many companies have closed down or are operating at 50 per cent of their capacity. Due to this, people are not getting work, living in despair. These desperate people are losing their money in the guise of agents, and in return, they are being given low-level work.
Nepotism made the situation worse.
Manager-level people in Zimbabwe reserve most of the company’s positions for their relatives. This is common in Zimbabwe.
Industrial Psychology Consultants (IPC), a leading human resource consulting firm in Zimbabwe, published a report in 2021 in which 27.39 people involved said that nepotism prevails in their company.
The report said, ‘The medical services industry has the highest 52 per cent nepotism. This is followed by 42 per cent in the FMCG sector and 40 per cent in the media.
Experts say that the country’s current economic situation has the further impetus for nepotism.
Godfrey Kanyenz, founding director of Zimbabwe’s Labor and Economic Development Research Institute, said: “Children born in or after 1997 have never experienced normal economic conditions, yet have dreams.” Seeing the lack of jobs, poverty, and corruption, people get frustrated and pay bribes for jobs.
Chisunga says, ‘If I had not paid a bribe for the job, I would never have got it. Some of my age mates are still looking for jobs.