The significant economic reprieve in the last few months has ensured this year’s festive season will be merrier than it had been in the last few years when socio-economic hardships literally left the majority of Zimbabweans without disposable incomes.
A snap survey in Harare’s central business district revealed people were busy making their last-minute shopping ahead of Christmas Day on Saturday.
Lucy Maseko of Western Triangle, Highfield, who was doing her Christmas shopping with her two young sons, aged 11 and 8, said they were looking forward to a better festive season this year.
The Chinese shops on the outskirts of the central business district were of particular attraction, their relatively cheaper prices being the drawcard.
“My husband and I decided that this year, we should give our children a Christmas to remember,” she said, holding carrier plastic bags of clothes and groceries.
She is just one of the many people who clogged the streets of Harare, moving in and out of shops as they picked up groceries and clothing items they hoped would make this year’s festive season memorable.
“Things are much better this year,” she added. “The US dollars, though not very much, can buy a lot.”
The introduction of the multi-currency system in 2009 and the subsequent consummation of an unlikely romance between erstwhile enemies Zanu PF and the two MDCs in a government of national unity have seen a ray of light breaking in an otherwise dark tunnel.
Socio-economic hardships had put a damper on Christmas festivities, a major highlight on people’s end of year programmes, over the past years as Zimbabwe battled to exorcise the stubborn demon haunting its economy.
Alvin Chimombe of Zengeza 4 told NewsDay this year, prospects of a roaring festive season were high compared to the past few years, especially 2007. In the last two years, he said, Christmas had become just like any other day, “nothing special, really.”
But, in acknowledgment of relative change in fortunes, Chimombe said he and his friends had organised a braai, and have since bought a beast for slaughter.
“We really have to cover up for all the lost years when we could not afford to enjoy Christmas as we would have wanted,” he said.
Although retailers, true to form every first season, have embarked on predatory pricing regime to reap consumers of their 13th cheque earnings, most people interviewed said they would see to it that Christmas this year would invoke yesteryear memories, during the years of plenty, regardless of limited disposable incomes in some instances.
In its latest monthly consumer basket analysis, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said the basket has made a 1% jump from November’s $142, 77 to $144, 19 in December.
Foodstuffs likely to be on greater demand this first season, tea leaves, fresh milk and cabbage, saw marginal price increases which, when looked at in the bigger context, amount to a lot of money.
A number of low income earners preferred to shop with affordable clothing items and other Christmas specials, particularly the Chinese shops, some of which sell their merchandises at give-away prices.
Human traffic in the CBD has also increased in volume in the last few days, and in some shops, customers had to queue outside, waiting for their turn to get inside to purchase their items.
A sales assistant in a clothing retail shop, Donovan Tsoro, told NewsDay that compared to the last few years, business had significantly picked up as old shopping habits slowly returned.
“We have seen business significantly picking up this year,” he said. “In the afternoon we are sometimes overwhelmed by the number of customers who want to make purchases. This year’s Christmas is definitely a happy one, for both retailers and customers.”
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said as Zimbabwe looked at the birth of Jesus Christ, there was every reason to hope.
In his end of year statement, he said: “Twenty three months ago, the MDC helped form the inclusive government in Zimbabwe. We were guided by the righteous and noble objective of stabilising the economy and rescuing the people from the precipice of poverty, uncertainty, starvation and indignity wrought by three decades of corruption and misgovernance.”
Tsvangirai said as the nation celebrated Christmas, there was greater hope than ever before of better things ahead and urged Zimbabwe to pray for peace, hope, security and prosperity.
“I urge all God-fearing Zimbabweans to race alongside me in this last mile as we unite in prayer and ask God the Almighty to bless our country,” Tsvangirai said.