YOUTH, Sport and Child Development Minister Emmanuel Mulenga says government aims to create over 10,000 jobs between now and December as a way of cushioning the impact of COVID-19 on young people.

And Mulenga says government covered expenses for all youths from outside Lusaka who attended Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya’s meetings with young people last week.

Meanwhile, Mulenga has mocked youths who organized a bush protest saying they did not gain anything from the protest because they are just being used by a named politician who has failed to make it to State House in the past six general elections.

Speaking when featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Mulenga stressed that he had listened to youths’ concerns that they wanted inclusiveness in governance, promising 10,000 jobs by December.

“It’s under discussion, we are trying to create jobs for the youths and a good number will be created. We are looking at creating over 10,000 [jobs] between now and December. You need to understand that we are in hard times where many businesses have shrunk because of this coronavirus. If you look at Southern Sun Hotel, it has closed; Pamodzi Hotel has closed and Intercontinental Hotel has closed. So, this coronavirus is a global phenomenon, which is being faced, globally. We cannot make more than what we can, but we are looking at making jobs. The youths also talked about what jobs are we going to create? A youth comes on the table, those that have been to school, they do not come with experience and we do understand that. We also understand that there are youths who have done hospitality business and the lodges are closing, so why don’t these youths open up hospitality businesses? We are there to help as government,” Mulenga said.

“We want to put youths together, those that have done mining engineering. Of course, you cannot take everyone to the mine. Those who have done mining engineering, those who have done marketing, those who have done accounts, we want to put them together and attach them to some big mine so that they can learn how to do business. Once all this is assembled, we will advise the youth to open a company and link them to ZCCM-IH to start mining gold on their behalf. Let them open up a mining consortium. Their job will be to mine gold on behalf of ZCCM-IH, at a later stage if they grow their capital and they know the corners very well and how to do mining and how to conduct business in the mining sector, they can apply for a mining license. No one is prohibited from having a mining license. I had my first mining license when I was 21 years old; no one prohibited me from getting a mining license.”

And Mulenga said all youths that attended Siliya’s meetings were sponsored by government.

“We provided transport, we gave them transport refunds. For those who didn’t have transport, we told our provincial coordinators to provide transport. Those who were able to provide transport and made it to come to the meeting, we refunded them their transport costs. Of course, the meeting was not representative of all the youth in the country, but we should remember that the problems faced by the youth in Lusaka are similar to the problems faced by the youth on the Copperbelt. Countrywide, the youth are crying of levels of unemployment and inclusiveness in the governance system. Their language is the same. So, actually, it is not the first and the last meeting to be held,” Mulenga added.

But he cautioned the youth not to use political language if they wanted assistance from government.

“There is a smarter way of engaging each other. I believe the youth are smart and since youth are smart, they need to use a smarter way of presenting their grievances. What is the smarter way to engage a person who you think has stepped on your toes? We should not lose the culture of this nation; there is no way and not a time did we go and stand on top of a hill and shouted at our fathers. You would sit with your parents or with your father and tell him the things, which are affecting you. Government is a father to the youth, therefore, they need to engage with the Ministry and the government accordingly in a smarter way and I have no doubt in my mind that the youth are smart and they should just engage us in a smart way,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mulenga argued that the youth, who organized a bush protest last Monday did not gain anything from their protest and that they were being used by a named politician, who had failed to make it to State House for six successive times.

“Those who went to the bush, many of them are not even youth. And what did they benefit from going in the bush? There are no profits in the bush. Those who came to my Ministry, each one of them made a profit. Those who went to the bush, what have they gained? They are just being used by politicians with selfish ambitions! They are being used by the same politicians who forget them when they get into office. Those youths are just being used by selfish politicians, who have failed to go into State House in the past six general elections we have held in this country. We need youth, who are going to present their views and engage government in addressing their views. Being used by a politician won’t change your status. What will change your status is the way you conduct yourself, making sure that you achieve what you want to achieve and what you want to achieve is economic independence. If there is an office and a platform has been created for you, which we can use, but then you decide not to come to the meeting and you go to the bush, that is being used by a politician,” Mulenga said.

He also stressed that government was not being reactive to challenges affecting the youth, but that leaders were simply responding because they had heard their cries.

“It’s not a reaction; the youths had a meeting with the President in March, we had Youth Indaba. When was the Aqua Fund introduced? Aqua Fund was not introduced when this uproar came up; it was introduced two months ago after the Indaba with His Excellency. That’s why the directive was given by His Excellency that 30 per cent of (the Fund) should go to the youth because during that Indaba, the youth presented their issues and after presenting their issues, the President did direct that 30 per cent of this (Aqua Fund) should go to the youth. So, it’s not a reaction, this is something, which has started happening and after hearing that the youth wanted to protest, I had to call them and remind them about the meeting we had with the President and I said, ‘if there are issues, which you did not present during that Indaba, present them now and I will take them to Cabinet’,” said Mulenga.

“What do the youth need? They need inclusiveness in the governance system. There was also the issue of unemployment, that we should create jobs for them. Number two, empowerment and even when we explained the empowerment programmes, which are going round and round these ministries, they said they didn’t know about the empowerment. So, as a Ministry, we are thinking of ways and means of making sure that we send this information.”