Misplaced Priorities

Taking an unusual stroll around the dusty and pot holed streets of Luveve and Gwabalanda, two of Bulawayo’s oldest townships One cannot help but wonder where our priorities lie as a people. While we claim to want a bright future for ourselves and our children, the seeds we are sowing are those of destruction and devastation.

I have often heard grown-ups lament the character of young people that exists today. Not so many months ago the Chronicle was awash with shocking pictures of young men and women, some as young as thirteen engaged in appalling acts of dirty dancing and binging on all sorts of alcoholic beverages. The comments that expressed their shock were, “futhi abantwana bakulezinsuku!” (meaning that the Youths of today are ill-bred, hopeless, irresponsible and without vision ). Conversations surrounding their ungratefulness and their unwillingness to get a decent education will then follow leaving the character of all young people in Zimbabwe in tartars.

Walking down the streets of these aging townships and seeing the once vibrant community swimming pool, now overgrown with grass and weeds, its football stadium just a stone’s throw away from the pool, almost ghostly isolated on a Sunday afternoon, the youth center, just 100meters from the stadium with no sign of youthful activity as it is closed to young people but wide open to churches on Sundays, makes one ask again where our local authority’s priorities lie.

A totally different atmosphere accompanies the private and council liquor outlets in the same area. By 9am in the morning these spots are flocking with people walking in and out to buy alcohol. Their hope is to dilute the previous evening’s binge, but when has taking more alcohol ever gotten rid of the rest of it in the human body, some one please educate us? An explicit example is the Musina beer garden in Old Luveve which was recently lavishly refurbished and up graded from being a beer garden to a sports diner. From those who have been inside, it is now so lavish that for ardent drinkers, it does not make sense to go home first before having one or two drinks at the spot. Some no longer watch their favourite TV shows at home preferring the SABC and Super Sport channels at the diner.

What bogs the mind most is that over the years there has been an increase in the number of liquor outlets in the township and Bulawayo in general than in the past. What is even scarier is that these outlets are now penetrating the residential areas. In years past one would not find licensed night clubs right in the center of a township. Save for shabeens which remain illegal in Zimbabwe and which young people hardly frequented due to the patronage by older people and type of music played , what was officially common back then were the council beer gardens, which did not play loud music nor operate throughout the night like these night clubs do. Nowadays spots like Jika Jika night club are at the heart of residential communities, hard to ignore and sad to behold.
Now, given a choice between going to a dilapidated youth center, soccer stadium, swimming pool or staying at home and a night spot playing the latest music and overflowing with all sorts of beverages, where do you think young people will most likely choose to while up their time? This is not even food for thought; it is too easy to challenge the mind. So then what does refurbishing beer halls into sports diners, and licensing more liquor outlets and night clubs in our communities before upgrading our youth centers, vocational training centers and sports facilities say about our leaders’ priorities? To one, it means they either do not care at all, or they do care, but what they care about has nothing to do with the positive development of young people.

Very soon youths will not only be unable to reach their fullest potentials academically, but even their talents will not be fully developed and explored as school curricula have been disrupted and vocational training centers are in a sorry state to say the least. In the last two years little or no sporting activities have been taking place at schools. At some schools, teachers have been using the half hour break time periods and after school sports and extra-mural activities time for making additional money from extra lessons after school, when students should be relaxing, exercising and developing their physical talents.

The physical signs are there for all to see as even the community recreational parks are no longer being maintained. They do not even have the simplest swings for children to entertain themselves on. The Bulawayo Centenary park which was the highlight of natural beauty in Bulawayo for a very long time, has become a very depressing and gloomy site which should either be completely removed or quickly refurbished because it no longer symbolizes the celebration that the name ‘Centenary’ was meant to bestow on the city. Even wedding parties no longer favour the spot for pictures, something which was almost taboo to neglect not so long ago.

This attitude seems to be creeping into all sectors of our communities as sports fields at some schools and colleges are overgrown with weeds and grass except for the soccer pitches which seem to be out lasting all other sports in terms of the love and commitment it gets from school authorities at institutions of education, although not enough to maintain the momentum of past years. The basketball, tennis, netball, volleyball, pitches are so full of cracks that the pavings are being easily washed away by this season’s heavy rains. Schools no longer bother or simply cannot afford to hire maintenance men.

When was the last time school pupils were heard being transported in a bus singing and chanting joyfully after an exciting sports expedition with other schools? What happened to the inter-house and inter schools competitions that scouted some of the best talents that represent Zimbabwe in different regional and international sporting arena today? Where will the Peter Ndlovus, Samkeliso Moyos, Tatenda Taibus, Kara Blacks and Kirsty Coventrys of tomorrow come from now that our community is more of a breeding ground for super drunkards than superstars?

The point is simply this, “an Idle mind, is the Devil’s playground.” Thanks to dismal policies and other circumstances beyond their control, most of these young people hardly attend school while most of them are school leavers anyway. They are unemployed, unskilled, and there is no encouragement from the community and city fathers to get them skilled, and yet there are more and more bottle stores, night clubs, sports diners, night spots, bar and restaurants, beer gardens (Give them all sorts of fancy names but they present the same evil) being licensed to deter their productive imaginations, sprouting all over one township. What then is the bigger picture? It surely is the fact that state, local and corporate authorities are failing to priorities and provide adequate services, choosing instead to make quick profits ahead of maintaining the city’s good standing and equipping young people with a conducive enough environment to develop themselves.

Once counted amongst the cleanest cities in the world, Bulawayo has made an about turn to become a filthy and slowly dilapidating city. As early as 5am in the morning, the streets are littered with broken glasses, used condoms and all sorts of filth that would make one’s spine cringe. Poor Drivers have to meander their way around broken beer bottles and cans because bottle stores are dotted all over the city with little effort to maintain cleanliness around these spots. What makes it worse is that police officers no longer bother like before to arrest public drinkers, nor do the bottle store owners try to keep the streets clear of dangerous litter so that early morning drivers and pedestrians do not suffer the carelessness of their selfish patrons.

It is also difficult to understand why city council would rather be chasing and arresting citizens (mostly young people) trying to earn a descent and honest living by selling vegetables and other wares in the city center to support their families, for selling in undesignated spots while there are more urgent problems facing our nation today. Maybe this will enlighten you. More young people are infected, affected and are dying of HIV/AIDS related illnesses than any other age group in Zimbabwe. More and more of young people are becoming bread winners, forced to leave school to support their siblings. As much as 38% of children have been forced to leave school before grade five because they cannot afford to continue with their primary education and need to support their families.

Young girls are the most vulnerable to contracting HIV as the most likely place they think of going to make money is into prostitution and these night spots are fertile ground for this type of activity. It was hard enough when they were only located in the city centers making transport expenses a major factor, now that they are just a door step away, they have become even more enticing to young vulnerable girls to run to every night. So here’s a note of reason to the authorities, these nightspots and places of leisure are unwelcome in our communities, especially if they are going to be at the expense of our health, moral values, integrity, security and development and future.


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