Employment agencies mushrooming in Harare have been accused of cashing in on desperate job seekers for whom they promise to secure jobs, but fail to deliver after having literally milked the clients of their hard-earned money.
Classified advertising space in almost all newspapers in the country is always inundated with adverts of employment opportunities placed by agencies seeking to throw a “lifeline” to job seekers. Some of the agencies have cast their nets wider, placing “adverts” on precast walls in the city, building walls, at bus termini and street corners in high-density suburbs.
Given the high numbers of unemployed people walking the country’s streets, some the job adverts sound too good to be true, with the advertisers claiming to offer on-the-job training for till operators and security guards. Some even promise to secure jobs for their clients in countries such as Dubai, Australia, the UK and South Africa.
A number of those who fell for the bait opened up to NewsDay, explaining how they were let down by the employment agencies in whom they had invested their trust after all previous efforts to secure jobs had yielded no fruit.
A Harare woman, Yvonne Chifamba, was made to cough up a significant amount of money as registration fee, but never got a job.
“I was asked to pay $45 as registration fee by an employment agency so that they could get me a job. I only managed to pay half the amount because I didn’t have enough money. I promised to pay the balance later,” she said.
“I was told to keep checking with them until they got the job for me. There was really nothing suspicious about the entire set-up because I saw many other people queued to pay their registration fees at the agency.”
Chifamba continued checking with the agency until one day she discovered that they had vacated the premises. She never heard from them again and was forced to set her sights elsewhere.
A number of job seekers who had been referred to different companies reportedly in a deal with the agency later found out there was no such arrangement.
Lillian Ngorima from Kuwadzana Extension, a graduate from Midlands State University, said she was duped by an employment agency that had asked her to pay $20 registration fees so that a job could be organised for her.
“There were hundreds of us who paid this agency to find jobs for us. We had responded to an advert that had been published in the newspaper calling unemployed with any degree qualifications to get in touch and have jobs secured for them,” she said.
She said it was only later that she teamed up with other job seekers who had also been deceived and confronted the agent, who claimed to have political connections and was thus “untouchable”.
“There were about 300 of us. All of us had paid $20 each. But the bogus agent was arrogant and threatened us, claiming nothing would be done to him because he was politically ‘connected’,” she said.
Several other desperate jobn seekers dotted across the city echoed Chifamba’s sentiments and appealed to authorities to root out bogus employment agencies operating all over the country.
According to the International Organisation for Migration in Harare, thousands of people are trafficked both internally and outside the country on false promises of jobs abroad.
The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, was adopted in Palermo, Italy, in 2000 as an international legal agreement attached to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.
Meanwhile, a recent UN Global Report on Trafficking indicated human trafficking often occurred from less developed countries to more developed countries, where victims were promised lucrative jobs and where they were rendered vulnerable by virtue of mostly poverty and conflict.
Following the country’s economic upheavals in the last decade, job opportunities shrank significantly, forcing many people to opt for self-employment as the formal market could not absorb graduates coming out of the country’s tertiary institutions.
This has seen some unscrupulous individuals opening up illegal employment agents so that they could capitalise on the desperation of unemployed people who have been forced to part with their money on the basis of false job promises.
The country’s unemployment rate is reportedly pegged at 70%, with only 850 000 people formally employed out of a 12 million — strong population.
Economic analyst John Robertson was recently quoted saying: “Since 1970 Zimbabwe’s population has more than doubled which means the working populace should have more or less doubled. The country’s economy remains distressed.”
Robertson said one-third of the formally employed were in the civil service, an indication that manufacturers and corporate organisations did not yet have the capacity to absorb job seekers.