IT is the festive season yet again when families around the world gather for merry-making and share gifts to mark the annual period of Christmas cheer. It is also a period where companies in countries where the day is celebrated, add that little extra to the December paycheck, be it in the form of a bonus or hampers of various goodies, all in the Christmas spirit.
Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
However, this is in stark contrast to the situation in Zimbabwe where many face a bleak Christmas due to President Robert Mugabe’s failed administration. Mugabe has literally stolen Christmas from the majority of Zimbabweans, moreso the poor children who have been robbed of the Christmas cheer.
With the economy having worsened considerably in the last year largely characterised by acute cash shortages caused by a severe liquidity crunch, company closures and substantial job losses, the Christmas period for many Zimbabweans will be a time to stress over how they will survive in the coming year rather than that of merry-making with friends and family. Most will not be able to visit their rural homes due to the cash crisis.
Teachers, among other civil servants, will mark the day penniless after the broke government failed to pay them and committing only to do so on December 28. Zimbabwe Teachers Association CE Sifiso Ndlovu reflected the frustration of his members when he told state media that government had “virtually postponed Christmas”. That they will be paid within the month for the first time since May is scant consolation for teachers who will not be able to afford the Christmas cheer.
This year’s Christmas will be held at a time when more than 260 companies have closed shop in 2016, according to statistics from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, resulting in thousands thrown into the streets, with most going home without a cent. It will be commemorated at a time when Ziscosteel dismissed at least 3 000 workers, with employees at National Railways of Zimbabwe and Hwange Colliery fearing for their jobs after management at the two parastatals revealed plans to carry out massive retrenchment programmes.
The situation will not be much better for the few that remain in formal employment. Most are going home without salaries as companies struggle to raise funds due to viability challenges. Those who have money in the banks also face a miserable Christmas as they struggle to access their cash due to the severe liquidity crunch. The number of people sleeping in queues has risen dramatically in the past week, as poor Zimbabweans try to withdraw the little available cash.
Mugabe, who is the author of the misery, will be far removed from the despair and desolation that he has spawned, feasting and merry-making in the Far East with his family and in-laws well cushioned with millions of dollars in his kitty from Treasury while several of his cabinet ministers will also spend lavishly and make merry in various resorts against the background of a comatose economy.
As long as the calamitous and inept of the frail Mugabe continues, Christmas will remain a somber affair devoid of any festive cheer.