Shrieks of joy and laughter saturated the air as women talked about how they were going to spend Christmas day.
While men could be seen connecting radios to their generators along the dusty main road, women were busy cooking outside their wooden shacks.
In no time Aleck Macheso’s song Tafadzwa from his latest album blasted and 20 people, including children, gathered around and started dancing merrily to the loud music.
More than 5 000 families were settled at Hopley farm during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. It has no health or proper sanitation facilities and people use one-metre deep pit-latrines. There is only one borehole working, forcing them to rely on unprotected wells close to the pit-latrines. Just recently, it was under the spotlight after Amnesty International reported that Hopley Farm had the highest number of new-born deaths, with 21 reported in five months.
Most people living there earn less than the estimated Consumer Council of Zimbabwe breadbasket of US$147.
As Hopley Farm exploded into life on Christmas day, the whole area, which has no electricity, was abuzz with noise from generators and loud music could be heard almost a kilometre away, as far as the turn off from Mbudzi close to Boka tobacco floors.
“You can see for yourself that today I can afford to drink this brown bottle (a lager). Other days I buy those cheap beers. This is Christmas, why not spoil myself a bit. After all it only comes once a year,” says Nomore Chimwe as he danced the museve music genre holding closely his brown bottle.
Morin Toga, who runs one of the shebeens in the area described this year’s Christmas as one of the best she has had in the past five years.
“Business has tripled during this period of the year. I am very happy. People are spending their money,” she said.
Shebeens are popular at Hopley and most of them were full with men and women.
This year Christmas was different compared to two years ago when there was not much to celebrate as shelves were empty and high inflation was biting deeply into people’s pockets.
People could not afford to treat themselves to a nice meal during that period –– even bread with margarine and jam had become a luxury to most poor people.
Mbuya Trainos in Hopley said she was happy this year because her children could afford to treat her to a special meal.
“Our lives have always been full of struggling and begging. My children do not earn much, some get about US$30 at the end of each month for the manual jobs they do. But this year they managed to make this Christmas special. Last year it was difficult because things had not properly stabilised for us,” she said.
Even the children had a special treat, they managed to get new “Christmas clothes”.
Seven-year-old Tapiwa and five-year-old Knowledge Nzvimbo said they were excited that they had new clothes and that their mother was preparing “rice and chicken for lunch”.
However, some decided to spend the day far away from their homes.
Clever Nyabire, who works as a security guard, took Christmas as an opportunity to take his wife and three children for lunch at a food court at Construction House in the Central Business District.
“It is very rare for me to come here because anytime during the year I can’t afford it. I bought my family two pieces of chicken and chips and they are all very excited. It is a different way of spending Christmas for them as we usually go to the rural areas,” he said.
Others took their families for a braai at different outdoor entertainment joints.
While for many it was a day to spend with the family, some decided to spend it with the less privileged at Makumbi mission children’s home in Domboshawa.
Hellena Chikerema and five of her friends went with groceries and clothes to the home that looks after 86 orphans.
“Visiting the less privileged, we thought, was the only way we could celebrate Christmas and we feel happy about it. We didn’t have much but we offered what we could afford. There are about 86 children at the home some as young as three months who were dumped by their mothers. We had lunch together with the children and played games afterwards,” she said.
Despite the challenges this year, Christmas to many people interviewed by this newspaper was one of the best in many years as they could afford basic groceries.