This year, the Harare City Council installed Christmas lights in the First Street Mall. Shop windows are adorned with decorations so are homes for the rich and the poor.
There is vibrancy this festive season, a change from the glum faces of despondency and insecurity which characterised the pre-GNU years. Ordinary folk have been exclaiming; “There is Christmas this year!”
The economy has this year been showing real signs of recovery with fervent activity in the retail sector where supermarket chains revved up their operations in response to increased demand for groceries.
It has been heartening to note that Zimbabweans this festive season did not need to trek across the Limpopo to buy cooking oil, sugar, rice and margarine. The products are readily available in the shops, most of them being imports though.
Clothing shops this year introduced credit to bring into the fold low income earners. This, together with aggressive advertising drive in this last quarter, has brought in good business for the sector but unfortunately also is the large import component in the stock on sale.
The textile sector has remained in the doldrums and the story is the same in many sectors of the economy where capacity utilisation has remained depressed at 43%, way below government’s forecast of 60% by year end. It is however some improvement from the 32% figure recorded at the beginning of the year.
The low employment of installed capacity in industry means unemployment has remained high at a conservative guesstimate of above 80%.
This, together with low salaries in the civil service remains a big threat to economic recovery as demand for local goods and services remains lower than the national potential.
This year the salaries for government workers remained low, averaging $150 against the poverty datum line of $500. Put simply, Zimbabweans remain a poor lot but they love their Christmas.
In the face of all this, there was a spring in the collective step of the country this year. All the sectors of the economy were beginning to speak positively about recovery.
Their buoyancy stemmed from the stable environment that brought predictability in business and confidence which had evaporated over the years.
Ordinary people could plan using the little resources to hand. This Christmas, they were able to set aside something to buy goodies for Christmas.
To many, Christmas returns to their homes this weekend after a three-year absence. Poor politics, characterised by autocracy, violence and bonehead economic policies, had killed Christmas. It was doom and gloom.
Thus the greatest gift political leaders could have given this country this year was mere assurance that there would be even greater recovery next year to build on the achievements of 2010.
But our rulers have this Christmas denied us that gift. Instead they have started to speak in retrogressive tones which brought ruin to this country in the run-up to the 2008 polls.
They want elections next year even though the public and business are against the idea. They foresee violence, populist policies which will ruin business and that debilitating uncertainty that keeps investors away. They foresee a 2011 without Christmas. Our leaders must give the people what they want: a good life, and Christmas.