Young people have described as unfair the threats by CABS and CBZ to take legal action against youths who have failed to pay back loans received under the youth development fund. Some of them argue that merely allocating the youths money based on their project proposals without assessing their capacity to run a viable business was a trap for young people.
“The young people were not capacitated, making the implementation of these projects very difficult. They ended up misusing the funds,” said Jacqueline Ndlovu a young woman residing in Mpopoma.
She added that the Zimbabwean education system was teaching people to be employees and not employers and that indigenisation and empowerment was being treated as an event not a process, a point that the Government is missing.
Adding to that, Ndaba Mloyi, a corporate banker and National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) board treasurer said; “Unless and until we recognise that the problem facing SMEs and start-ups is not just money, and then we will always throw money at them and throw them in jail when they fail to pay back.
He added that the starting point was to realise that not all young Zimbabweans are entrepreneurs, and that people without business skills require a lot of capacitation and hand holding for them to develop the capacity to run businesses profitably and sustainably.
“Therefore any program that seeks to empower youths through enterprise development must start with identifying real entrepreneurs not just unemployed youths with some project. Once they have been identified, a holistic approach to arm them with technical and business management skills, in addition to giving them seed capital, has to be adopted, “ said Mloyi.
He proposed business incubation as the ideal model for such youth empowerment projects in Zimbabwe.
Other young people argued that the amounts given to young people as loans were barely enough to set up a viable income generation project.
“Honestly how did you expect youths to start and run a project with $2000? The economy itself was not conducive for new businesses. It was an unfair political gimmick to lure the youth to a certain political party so as to use them,” said Lindiwe Maphosa from Gwanda. However other youths argued that vendors were making a living from capital which is far less than $2 000 and other viable businesses were probably started with less than that.
Some young people also felt that the failure to pay back the loans had nothing to do with failed income generation projects but was a reflection of the culture of impunity that has been embraced in Zimbabwe.
“The cancer of impunity is now raising its ugly head. The practise has been that individuals take loans from banks and they never repay. So some youths thought the practice was still the same. I do not think it’s all about capacity, maybe to a lesser extent but mostly its patronage and impunity, “said Michael Mdladla Ndiweni from Bulawayo.
“I feel sorry for the poor youths who are now victims of a system that nurtured them. But I doubt anything will happen to them. The government will probably encourage them to pay then the issue will die a natural death,” he added.