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Home#263ChatPoverty Ridden Zimbos Turn To Sports Betting

Poverty Ridden Zimbos Turn To Sports Betting

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Betting has not spared Zimbabwe, in the heat of economic  crisis  poor and desperate Zimbabweans hang out in Harare’s crowded low-end betting halls, placing stakes as little as U.S.20 cents on world soccer matches and international horse and dog races with fervent hopes of getting quick returns on their bit of cash.

As has become the norm, people reeling from the effects of the festive season after a free spending, the  world falls apart in January as parents come back to reality with most beckoning and imminent problem to solve being school fees.

With the majority having been affected by the job cuts that hit the country in recent years many have tried to adopt to the cash crisis and the only viable option has been the mushrooming sport betting houses.

The betting houses which have become a popular hangout for the different classes of society ranging from the middle class to the poverty ridden, hopes for a turn around in fortunes has led many to find new homes away from their homes.

The betting houses have mushroomed in and around the Harare Central Business District with every corner now housing a betting hall.

In an interview with 263Chat at one of the betting halls, unemployed  28-year-old Tinashe Marira who was not spared with the job cuts, had hoped to sustain his lavish lifestyle an the only place he saw fit of sustaining his style was the betting shop.

He says he now spends his days gambling on soccer matches and depends on sporadic winnings to feed his family and elderly parents.

The28 year old has now delared that it would be difficult for him to be permanently employed as ventures into the risk terrain of  Marira declared gambling is now his full-time job and won’t be looking for formal employment again anytime soon.

“This pays better than any job I could ever find,” Marira said as he keenly followed up on one match where he had placed his bet. And by the looks of things, he was well on course to reap big rewards.

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Both young and elderly unemployed say gambling is a way of making money.

“It is a relief to many unemployed people roaming the streets,” said Roger Tekwa, 46, another regular at another betting shop.

Zimbabwe’s already high unemployment rate, estimated at more than 80 percent, increased in the past year when hundreds of companies shut down.

The country’s economic crisis has deepened since long-time President Robert Mugabe, who will turn 93 in February, won re-election in 2013

Factories in the once bustling industrial zones in the main cities are now silent.

Job seekers on foot in the scorching heat are turned away. Railroad tracks once used by trains to ferry in raw materials and supplies are now overgrown with weeds and can sometimes be used by commercial sex workers to have a quicky with their customers.


The jobless drift into Harare to look for employment opportunities to make money and many end up selling vegetables, mobile phone airtime and anything they think will earn them a few dollars to survive.

According to the World Bank, 46% percent of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people now survive by running such informal businesses,

“Gambling here is done with seriousness coupled with a sad desperation,” said one bookmaker and manager who spoke on condition of anonymity, at a downtown betting shop that provides, along with slot machines, an array of sporting events to bet on including televised horse and dog races and European soccer matches.

At one end, a group of young men is deeply immersed in an English league soccer match. The sombre mood is suddenly broken by boisterous cheers of youths celebrating a goal.

“These people don’t bet for fun, for them it’s a desperate search for money to pay for household expenses,” Ndlovu said.

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He said many gamblers try to play it safe, placing $1 bets on several games to maximize their chances of winning. Their fear of losing is palpable and some walk away sad and dejected after a bad day, he said.

“After losing a couple of times, they don’t come back for a while,” Ndlovu said.

Others are rash and gamble away all their cash away and resort to begging for money to get home.

One daring gambler, feeling lucky after a previous win on a virtual roulette game, wagered $3,000 meant for wages at his company and lost it all. He was later arrested and is now serving a prison term, Ndlovu said.

“The thrill of just thinking of the possibility to become what they always dreamed of makes them take reckless chances,” he said.

The young men, like Marira, say they feel confident to bet on top flight English soccer matches that are popular in Zimbabwe because they are familiar with the team stars and their form.

“You nearly always get something from soccer. We know the game,” Marira said.

Older betters stick to what feel they know best, horse racing, which has a long tradition in Southern Africa.

As the economy continues to tumble, it will be long before the number of punters reduces as many continue to hope that in the foreseeable future, and to quote from one Zimdancehall artist, Winky D, “their problems will disappear,”.

“Gamblers all have their secret winning formulas, although these formulas are seldom successful. A true punter never gives up, even if he is sinking deeper and deeper into debt. When you’ve scratched the bottom of the barrel, you are prepared to do anything to win; even cheat,” wrote a renowned match Raj Wilson Perumal in his book Kelong Kings as he narrated the world of sports betting.

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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