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Monday, April 22, 2024
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When Alternatives Become Means Of Survival

Anna Masimela (not her real name) looks a pale shadow of herself. Sitting under a tree while admiring a layer of bricks she has just molded. While she feels a sense of achievement, she is quickly reminded of the hustle of finding customers for her farm bricks and her smile disappears with a sense of resignation.

Clad in a tattered dress that used to be white in color but turned brown due dust, Masimela is busy watching over a brick furnace that has been on fire for three days, on the seventh day, she will stop adding firewood to allow it to cool.

On a normal day, she is at work from 8am to 5pm but on bad days, she has to cope with staying at work to as late as 6pm in the hope of catching one or two late customers and of late this has become routine due to low business.

“Someone has to buy my bricks,” she shouts before realizing that she was talking to herself.

She takes a short walk to her boyfriend, Simon whose oven has just been lit, together they discuss how they intend to use the money they generate from their brick molding business.

In their discussion, it appears their calculations cannot add up and at last they just leave the discussion, to concentrate on their work.

A brick molder at work in Hopley

Anna’s story is typical of how Zimbabwe’s economic problems have destroyed the potential of many young people who are out of formal employment and now forced to rely on informal sector for survival.

A recent visit to Hopley suburb in Harare South by 263Chat revealed a sad tale of how residents are now relying on the doing jobs that ordinarily would not appeal to anyone.

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A brick molder, Happison Mukude recalled how he used to work at one of the leading cooking oil manufacturers in Harare before he was retrenched after the company posted a string of losses resulting in its downsizing of operations.

Emirates

After years of trying to get another job without success, Mukude decided to try out brick molding, something that he says now puts food on his table.

While it looks viable to passersby, he reckons, it’s a battle to make money.

“I can spend the whole day working under the scotching sun, this is the only way to feed my family since there are no jobs in Zimbabwe,” said Mukude.

On good days, he makes enough to cover his daily costs and because of that, he keeps coming back to what he now calls his office everyday.

While he reckons, things are working for him, the trade has its own challenges such as low business due to the prevailing cash crisis but Mukude has no immediate alternatives, thus has to continue doing what he has mastered.

Another Hopley based brick molder, Mallon Mupfunye, admitted that brick molding is not a bed of roses but due to limited options, he has to content with his work as it is helping him fend for his family.

Brick molders setting a furnace in Hopley

“When I finished my Ordinary level studies, I looked for a job without success, forcing me to join brick molding, I am now 22 and married and I am able to look after my family though it is hard in this economy,” said Mallon Mupfunye.

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Just like Mukude and Mupfunye, other Hopley residents now rely on despised trades such as selling traditional brooms and hand crushed quarry for survival.

In Mrewa, Mashonaland East, a group of enterprising youths recently started a business venture of making furniture from disused tyres.

Collecting disused tyres, they have been able to design beautiful chairs and tables for sale and it seems they are surviving from it.

Many other youths in the country who have found jobs hard to come, have been forced into alternative means of survival.

Just next to Mbudzi bus terminus, old aged women including the disabled could be seen crushing stones into quarry which they sell to those building houses.

A 65 years old woman, gogo Manuhwa narrated how hard the business is for as an old woman, but due to limited options, she had to do it.

“I have five grandchildren, two of whom are orphans and I am a widow, so I found this, the only way to feed them and send them to school.

Stoner crushers negotiating with a potential customer

“Crashing stones is a very hard job and for me as old as I am, it is very hard to spend the whole day under hot sun and to fill up a wheelbarrow,” said gogo Manuhwa.

With government promises of 2.2 million jobs only an election promise that has not been fulfilled, more and more people could find themselves having to survive on alternative means.

The recent cash shortages and other economic problems that continue to affect the performance of local industries have succesfully made employment creation a pipe dream for many youths in Zimbabwe.

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Journalist based in Harare

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