By Harriet Chikandiwa/ Richard Muponde
CHAOTIC scenes characterised Christmas eve as thousands of people sought to do last-minute shopping, but many were stumped by cash shortages.
A survey by NewsDay in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities established that there was a shortage of cash at most banks despite people needing money for the festive season.
While most citizens were struggling to make ends meet, government ministers and other top officials said they would take advantage of the free time to rest at their farms.
This year’s Christmas holiday comes at a time the world is experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and most people will not be able to see their relatives from the diaspora due to travel restrictions.
National Housing minister Daniel Garwe said he would spend the Christmas holiday in Harare with his family as he would take advantage of the holidays to think about the challenges ahead.
“I will spend Christmas with my family, rest for seven days and recharge my batteries for work in the New Year, 2021,” Gwarwe said.
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said he was likely to have a low key Christmas celebration at home as he was very busy with commitments for his party’s extraordinary congress to be held on Sunday.
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“I am going to spend Christmas day with my family in Mt Pleasant because there is the MDC-T congress which is coming, so I need to be around. My mother-in-law has sent me a turkey to eat during Christmas. I will be with my wife and children at home,” he said.
But ordinary people said they would not enjoy Christmas due to the economic hardships affecting the country.
Harare resident Garikai Maungwe said most people would not be able to celebrate the Christmas holidays as the country was faced with a myriad of challenges, which include cash shortages and high school fees that are charged in the United States dollar at some schools.
“It’s just going to be like any other day. We can’t spend much to celebrate Christmas as we have been facing a lot of challenges during this COVID-19 period. We have no money to spend. Mind you, schools are opening early on January 4, which means that we are faced with the problem of school fees, uniforms and stationery for our children who are going back to school,” Maungwe said.
“I would have wanted to spend the holidays in my home area meeting with other relatives. I cannot even afford to buy some goodies for my children for Christmas,” he said.
Another Harare resident, Tendai Arinesto, said she was spending the Christmas holiday at her rural home with her family, ploughing the fields.
“How can we enjoy Christmas when things are hard like this? There is no money to splash on goodies. This year’s Christmas will just pass like any other day,” she said.
This festive season will be the second in the country since the return to local currency in June last year, after a decade of the multicurrency system anchored on the United State dollar.
Prices of basic foodstuffs such as mealie-meal and bread have recently shot to levels beyond the reach of many, and the government-subsidised mealie-meal is nowhere to be found.