A Christmas to forget
Many Zimbabweans yesterday said there is hardly anything to celebrate this festive season because of the crumbling economy and prevailing liquidity challenges.
BY Munesu Nyakudya
Some people have resorted to sleeping outside banks to beat long queues as they try to access their money.
Although the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has increased the cash withdrawal limits to $100 a day, a snap survey by The Standard this week revealed that many banks are failing to serve their clients, who are making efforts to withdraw money to spend this festive season.
The recently-introduced bond notes have clearly failed to stop the cash crisis.
“I came here around 10am and by that time they had already issued tickets for 500 people. We do not even know what time they are going to finish giving the first 500 so that we can also receive our tickets to join the queue,” said one Tinashe Gwatira at one of the banks.
Some complained that the money they were getting was too little for Christmas spending.
“They are giving $50. I wanted to go to my rural home but I guess I have to change plans because $50 will not be enough,” said Andrew Muyambo.
Thirty-two-year-old Tererai Sithole said she had resorted to sleeping at the bank, but the amount she got was not enough for the holiday plans she had.
She said there would be no merry-making as she needed to save money for other things.
At various bus termini in Harare vendors and commuter omnibus drivers said they were recording low business compared to what they experienced in the previous years.
Unlike in previous years where busfares would be hiked during the festive season, some bus operators resorted to lowering the fares this year.
Judith Kaulem from the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust said not many people will be able to celebrate Christmas.
“Ordinary people who use public transport may find it difficult to travel to their rural homes since the plastic money system is not operational on public transport,” she said.
“About 70% of the population is rural-based and largely unbanked.
“The cash shortages will continue to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots as the current thrust for the use of plastic money excludes the unbanked population.”
Apex chairperson Cecelia Alexander said there was no joy for many civil servants.
“There is nothing to celebrate. Christmas is a special time that we are supposed to spend with families but unfortunately most of the civil servants will not be able to celebrate because they cannot afford to spoil their children or to buy some items,” she said.
“We have been struggling this year and our salaries were delayed.
“What makes the whole thing very painful is that it’s not every civil servant who will be paid after Christmas, certain sectors are being paid earlier and it’s unfair.”
Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downward spiral since the 2013 elections where President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF registered an unexpected victory.