27 December 2002

ZIMBABWE: Desperate situation in rural areas while government institutionalises youth militias

The poverty that has accompanied Zimbabwe's economic crisis has driven many desperate rural people to prostitution, robbery and gold panning to survive, the latest Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) report said. "Cross border trading with neighbours Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana is also on the increase as households try to find any way they can to make ends meet," the report said.

With maize and wheat being sold at eight times the government-set price, and oil, salt and rice prices escalating, income generating opportunities were diminishing for rural households, FEWS NET said. The demand for casual labour, which provided one of the few sources of cash, had declined in 90 percent of rural villages while 96 percent of villages reported a decrease in the flow of remittances from urban areas, researchers found. As a result, 80 percent of rural households reported eating wild foods they did not normally consume, which increased the risk of poisoning.

Meanwhile government is setting up more national youth service training centres across the country as it steps up measures to institutionalise its militias, the Zimbabwe Independent has established. The move is part of a programme by government to establish training centres in each district of every province during the first half of the year. Sources within the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation told the Independent that half of the ministry's 2003 $4 billion budget had been set aside for the establishment of the national youth service training scheme. The sources said a large chunk of the funds would go towards the upgrading of Kamativi Training Centre in Matabeleland North, which is expected to be the largest national youth training camp in the country.

Currently there are five youth training centres in the country: Guyu in Matabeleland South, Border Gezi in Mashonaland Central, Kamativi in Matabeleland North, and Mushagashi and Dadaya in Midlands province.

So far over 9.000 youths have graduated from the programme and the majority have been absorbed into different ministries as reward for their support during election campaigns. The setting up of the new training centres, according to sources, will work in tandem with government's policy announced two months ago which stipulates that "O" Level certificate holders cannot proceed to "A" Level and government institutions without a national youth service certificate. The government has in the past defended the youth training programme as essential for instilling a sense of patriotism among youths. (IRIN; ZWNews / Zimbabwe Independent)

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