You successfully finished your university or college studies, last year, or a couple of years ago, and you have had no luck getting a job. Many failed interviews and unanswered applications for jobs are your experience, after obtaining your qualifications. Most of your dreams about how your life would change after finishing your college or university studies now lie in tartars, discarded, by unemployment. You feel, and indeed are beaten, by the system; for now.
You have just been thrown out of university or college. You did not make it; you failed. Suddenly the world has shrank for you, into the tiny dark spot in your mind where hopelessness, fear and uncertainty about the future reside. You are ashamed of yourself. You now know you are alone in the world, and it is almost as if everyone has heard you have failed. You do not know where to begin, to start your life as one among the millions of unemployed young people in Zambia.
You have just finished Grade 12; you have not made it to university or any college. Perhaps you made it to university or college, but you have no one to fund your studies. What are your options? You have no idea.
You dropped out of secondary school or primary school. Now you roam the streets hustling, most of the time. There are as many reasons for dropping out of school as there are kids who drop out of school – each one has a unique story to tell. Life is truly hard. You probably are already into smoking, alcohol, drugs and some crime on the side, such as buying and selling stolen stuff. You and the police are not the best of friends, but meet quite frequently.
You are a young girl, young woman, perhaps older than 12 but younger than 30. You have abandoned where you used to live, maybe you were kicked out, and you hustle everyday about a place to sleep. You now work the streets at night looking for sex clients. Alcohol and drugs protect the little innocent girl still alive in you. Every moment of your life you wonder how all this will end, for end, it surely must, one day.
For whatever reasons, you are between 18 and 35 and are out, unemployed, totally alone, or so you think, in a world nobody cares about the suffering of millions of young people like you, condemned to a life without decent work, and therefore unleashed into the world to survive as best you can. You hustle, every day, for everything. You eat whatever you find. You sleep wherever you can, if you can, when the world goes to sleep.
You probably have been a guest of the Zambia Police before and maybe even done time in remand prison, or real prison. You know how overcrowded and ugly life is in our prisons, and in police cells. But outside is no better. It is often worse. Outside you float, aimlessly, with no definite things in your life. Inside at least there is some semblance of cruel structure, authority, discipline and horrible painful and hungry isolation, and the forced companionship of many like you.
You have long forgotten how it feels to be certain about anything in your life, to be confident about things, to trust in the goodness of people, to have faith in an improved tomorrow; you no longer hope for change in your life. You trust nobody. Everybody, it seems, wants to grab something from you, even as you have nothing. You too, you peer stealthily at other human beings and estimate what they could be worthy to you. You blame others and yourself for how your life has turned out to be. You are ashamed, angry and disappointed with yourself. You easily give in to violence. You are now a certified thug.
No one wants you in their homes. Times are tough for them too, and they are hostile to any extra human cost in their houses. You feel powerless, alone, and totally lost in a world in which everybody seems so busy going nowhere and everywhere and nobody really cares whether you are alive or dead! Usually you are hungry, frequently sick, and fail to understand what the hell this life is all about. It is tough.
I have been in almost all of these situations. I have never failed in college or university. I was thrown out of UNZA though, for involving myself in student politics and opposing the IMF. Of course, I have never done drugs of any kind, including smoking chamba. Not being female and in a country that still criminalises homosexuality, the option of all genders sex work was not available to me. I know what it is to flee from the country of your birth because some lunatic politician has been given a golden opportunity to lock you up, no matter how innocent you are.
What are you going to do to escape the almost inevitable smokes, alcohol, drugs, reckless sex, diseases, crime and police cells and prison this situation lands millions of young Zambians into? Is there hope out of this dead-end situation, for you?
Out of nearly 8 million potential workers in Zambia, less than 1.5 million are in gainful formal employment. More than 6 million cannot find work and hustle at the lowest levels to stay alive. Our politicians lie and pretend they love these unemployed, disparate and destitute young people, and promise to create jobs for them, upon being elected, but dump them, soon after being elected!
Today, all our rich and better educated and employed people hate the bottom layer of this angry unemployed young worker. They call them “thugs”, “party cadres”, “criminals”. “bakaponya” and so on, and wish to God they could just vanish from the Earth, and leave them alone.
Hakainde Hichilema and his friends in the UPND successfully mobilised this layer of young people, exploited its violence and defeated the unorganised violence of its opponents in the PF and through its vote, massively won the August 2021 elections. Now they no longer want these young people, they see them as violent thugs and cadres who must be swept away from our streets and markets, and possibly thrown in jail, and the keys thrown away. HH is now asking these young people to wait for his deals with the IMF, before jobs can be created for them. Here and there, these young people make their presence felt in the UPND, by carrying out the politics best suited to this working class: thuggery and violence.
This layer of young Zambia who live everyday on the verge of madness and suicide are the majority of our country’s labour force; they are Zambia’s unemployed working class. To escape its almost inevitable fate, this layer of unemployed young Zambian workers must demand that the government, through the public purse, skill them, equip them with trades, and supply them with the means to access the information, knowledge and all the resources they need to organise themselves for their economic survival, or else unleash a social and political explosion in Zambia.
Rather than be mobilised to organise political parties for corrupt politicians who in fact hate and have extreme contempt for them, these young people can and must organise themselves into a political force capable of securing their demands from any government, and they themselves, capable of forming government!
Hear me, young fellow: refuse to rot and die in the streets. Somehow, organise, unite with others like you, force government to give you skills, trades or crafts, organise yourselves for economic survival and into a political party to fight for your interests, or slowly rot, starve and die, in the streets. This was the meaning of the August the 12th, 2021 elections, for you!
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