ZANU PF legislator, Tionei Melody Dziva, who represents the Midlands province under the women’s quota, torched a storm of controversy last week after rubbishing claims of high unemployment in the country.
“If there was poverty in this country we would be seeing dead bodies all over,” Dziva told delegates to a youth employment conference organised by the Youth Forum at a Harare hotel.
Helped by provisions in the new constitution, a record 124 women joined Parliament after last year’s elections with Dziva, at 29 years of age, the youngest of them. The former university student activist also sits on the parliamentary portfolio committee on youth employment, indeginisation.
“I do not think your figures (on unemployment) are realistic that unemployment rate is at over 65%,” Dziva told delegates aghast with shock.
“We have tax drivers, air time vendors, hair dressers and farmers that economists ignore under their definition of employment, yet these people are employed. If it is true that the rate of unemployment is so high, there would be no one in this country.”
The National Statistics Report published this year pegged the country’s unemployment rate at 11% against the 86% suggested by independent economists.
A febrile atmosphere engulfed the conference with youth activists from various organizations questioning Dziva’s utterances.
Sally Dura, chair of the Youth Forum and facilitator of the conference, had to intervene and calm emotions as the situation nearly turned out of hand.
“I would like to know honourable Dziva. Do you want to see dead bodies all over in order to believe that we are suffering?” asked a visibly angry participant from among the delegates.
Michael Kandukutu, the National Organizing Secretary for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said the government’s definition of unemployment is misleading.
“The government must revisit the definition of unemployment otherwise it would miss targets,” said Kandukutu.
The government has often been blamed for falsifying unemployment figures in order to cover up for its failure to deliver the 2.3 million new jobs promised by Zanu PF and its leaders when campaigning for last year’s elections.