By Sineke Sibanda
Metso is a student at the National University of Science and Technology. He has three other sibblings, one is starting her degree programme, the other just started her ‘A’ level at Empandeni boarding school and the last one is writing her form four examinations this year.
With much of his parents’ attention going to his three female siblings, he has to take care of himself. It has not been easy, and he has since resorted to soccer betting, a form of gambling to subsidise his welfare.
Metso is among a host of other college students who have enrolled into this gambling circus to try and make ends meet as they strive towards completing their studies.
At a time when Zimbabwe is marred with high rates of unemployment, industries characterised with no activity, with only big rusty keys hanging on the falling gates; betting halls have become the new industries with regular patrons thronging these spaces from as early as 7am in the morning till 1030pm in the evenings daily.
Patson Nkomo, a security official at one of the betting halls in the city of Bulawayo observes that some have become regulars at the shop, and only absent when they fall sick, (giggles).
“Others are now informal employees here (laughs), they are here 24/7. With the issue of unemployment so high in Zimbabwe, this is where others make their living, including university students from a number of colleges in the city,” said Nkomo.
According to Admire Mapani, a student at the Bulawayo Polytechnic, betting has become a way of life for most college students.
“There is so much peer pressure we go through at school,” said Mapani. “You meet people from different families and you are also faced with the challenge to survive atleast, so the little your parents send you, you spin some of it through betting with the hope of multiplying it.”
However, issues to do with addiction of this sort of gambling tends to haunt.
According to Metso, he finds it hard to pass by the shop without being tempted to bet.
“I think I’m becoming an addict. I find it hard to pass by the soccer shop without being tempted to bet. Sometimes I even use my lunch money. I know its bad but I can’t control it sometimes”
This sort of gambling has become a normal routine and to others a little bit addictive. For the lucky ones, they have managed to get the best out of the experiences and to the unlucky, lots of money has been lost to the betting halls.
According to Mapani, college life can be terrible especially if you are far from home.
“It can be pretty tricky and because there are no grants or student stipends, anything that brings money could be ideal,” Mapani added.
Over the years, alarming rates of prostitution have been told in colleges, selling of drugs by male students and now betting is the new trade. The most important pre–occupation is making money.
Good as it may sound, and business as usual for the for the owners of the shops, concern is largely on the development part of the African countries. Questions on whether betting can really drive the ailing African economies.