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Bleak Christmas for Zimbabweans

Grace Kombora

A BLEAK Christmas beckons for crisis-sapped Zimbabweans as inflation continues to gnaw at the national currency, forcing buyers to carry huge bundles called “bricks”.

Going down memory lane, many adults remember times when Christmas was an occasion for celebrations. Every child in our neighbourhood would look forward to the day. They looked forward to receiving new clothes or a pair of shoes and invariably sweets.

Flaunting new clothes, the kids would roam around the rural shopping centre in the “townships” with the $5 mothers would have generously given them as “pocket money”. It was so loaded with value that they would spend as much as they could and still return home with change.

Food flowed — winnow baskets full of bread slices, sweets and candy cakes — the rare treat that children would wait a whole 365 days for.

Everything that a child could dream of was freely available. Relatives would bring home the bacon in the form of dozens of bread loaves to grace the Christmas day table.

All that is long gone. The joys of Christmas have been receding since the current economic crisis took hold in 1997 accompanied by rising food costs which have spawned deepening poverty.

Christmas Day no longer raises expectations but competes with any other for daily worries.

There is little hope of re-incarnating the good old days owing to a serious plunge in the value of the Zimbabwe currency, gnawed to the bone by rising inflation which is now more than 500%.

The crippled economy has spawned hard times for Zimbabweans.

Travel to rural areas and the gathering of family units for Christmas has become too costly for ordinary Zimbabweans.

Fuel shortages, which hit the country three years ago, have left Zimbabweans without any hope of getting normal supplies in the near future.

The would-have-been festive season appears to have turned into a curse exemplified by Josephine Mano, a widowed teacher at a primary school in Harare.

Mano, a mother of two, does not know how she is going to survive not only this Christmas but in the coming year.

With a paltry $3 million monthly salary and a similar amount in untaxed bonus, she does not have enough to make the minimum required to feed a family for a month.

Mano fears that she will not be able to pay school fees for her children come January when schools open.

As a civil servant, Mano is among ill-paid public servants who are gradually joining a growing number of urban poor hard pressed to make a decent living out of formal employment.

“I do not know how I am going to survive especially next month as I have already used up my cash,” Mano said.

“I have to beg and borrow to make ends meet. That does not give me any reprieve because come monthend I must pay what I owe and start borrowing again. It’s a vicious cycle,” Mano said.

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