Danger: Dull festive season ahead
BULAWAYO — The end of the year in this part of the world has a special significance.
It is a time when many, being of Christian persuasion, take time to spiritually redefine themselves.
Others, being affiliated to earthly influences, take time to simply be madly merry.
But this year’s festive season, as it has become to be known, promises to be an all different ball game as the obtaining economic situation points to a most gloomy period ahead for scores of Zimbabweans.
Company closures and the mass dismissal of employees from their jobs following the July 17 Supreme Court ruling, which allowed companies to fire workers on three months notices, as well as a tight liquidity environment are certain to bring their own share of misery.
The Christmas holiday, marking the birth of Jesus Christ and heralding the end of the year, is the longest of all holidays and has in the past been characterised by heavy spending by consumers.
This was usually as a result of November bonus payments by government and almost every company and employer, when the economy was still on the rails.
However, this is no longer the case as companies can no longer afford the 13th cheque.
Even government which has maintained the payment of bonuses to civil servants, is still struggling to raise that money and has said payment would be staggered until next year, meaning to say some of its employees would celebrate Christmas without those bonuses.
What is also likely to cast a shadow on this year’s Christmas holiday are salary backlogs that most companies have been battling with, an indication that most workers are likely to close for the year either empty handed or with just a fraction of a month’s salary.
The continued fall of the South African rand against the United States dollar, now trading at a rate of US$1:R 14, a development that has seen some retailers rejecting the neighbouring country’s coins, means the buying power of a number of Zimbabweans based South of the Limpopo has been reduced back home.
The only viable option for the injivas (Zimbabweans based in South Africa) will be for them to buy groceries for their families in South Africa instead of buying here.
Added to this inconvinience is the fact that some some basics such as sugar and flour have been banned for importation.
“Zimbabweans are going to have a dullest and empty Christmas ever in recent memory,” said Thomas Sithole, a social commentator.
“Most of them are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. Those in South Africa or with relatives there will bear the brunt of a devalued and underperforming rand against the US dollar making it difficult to spare money to spoil their loved ones if ever they come.”
Sithole said the future for Zimbabweans looked very bleak as indicated by an already dry summer rainfall and farming season.
“The morale and spirit of Zimbabweans is already at its lowest ebb and this Christmas will be one of the worst ever,” he added.
The National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe chairperson, Sten Zvorwadza, said he did not see people spending much during this Christmas holiday, with poverty having reached alarming levels.
He described the 2015 Christmas as a replica of 2008 in reverse in that supermarkets will be full of goods, which consumers are unable to buy, whereas in 2008 shops were empty when customers needed to buy.
“The Christmas of 2015 shall be dull, deplorable and unimaginable,” he stressed.
Zvorwadza took a swipe at the powers that be for having taken citizens for a ride by their failure to support the informal sector on time, which he argued was now the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy.
He added that despite the challenges, Zimbabweans whom he said require civic education to turn around their circumstances should celebrate Christmas with steadfastness looking into the future.
Anglistone Sibanda another social commentator, who also predicted a gloomy Christmas, said it was sad that, while the country was sinking, the leadership appeared not concerned with addressing problems facing the country.
On how best Zimbabweans should celebrate Christmas in the middle of challenges, Sibanda said: “People just need to avoid spending unnecessarily and save for January.”
The Bulawayo Residents Association chairperson, Winos Dube said: “With the way things are, I do not see an exciting Christmas for our people in the absence of bonuses.”
He added that even those that are likely to get bonuses would spend their money sparingly because they would have to pay school fees, come January.
The poor rains received so far, Dube said were also dampening the people’s hopes as everything is now just looking gloomy.
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