By Sij Ncube
HARARE, DECEMBER 7, 2015 – “Its Christmas time; there’s no need to be afraid, At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade. And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy, Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time.
“But say a prayer to pray for the other ones, At Christmas time It’s hard, but when you’re having fun, There’s a world outside your window, And it’s a world of dread and fear , Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
“And the Christmas bells that ring there, Are the clanging chimes of doom, Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you, And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time, The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life, Oh, where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow, Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?
“Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone, here’s to them, underneath that burning sun, do they know its Christmastime at all?”
This Band Aid’s classic song Do they Know it’s Christmas released in 1984 at the height of a devastating drought in Africa which killed thousands of people and animals resonates well with the poverty stricken Zimbabweans less three weeks to Christmas Day.
The generality of the population is wallowing in abject poverty as President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle swim in opulence.
Although promised the 13th cheque by Mugabe, civil servants are still to be paid their bonuses as the economic meltdown continues despite euphoria created in the first week of December by the visit of Chinese President Xi.
Citizens expected XI’s visit and the $4 billion deals he signed with Mugabe to spark signs of an instant economic revival as the visit was much hyped as the panercea to Zimbabwe’s economic quagmire but loo and behold a bleak Xmas looms.
The nation continues to reel from a severe liquidity crunch, cash shortages at banks, late payment of salaries, a decline in the living standards of ordinary people, among other ills bedevilling the economy.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the country’s influential workers labour body, predicts more company closures in 2016 in the wake of the comatose economy and Zanu PF’s lackadaisical administration, particularly failure to reviving the economy which has shrunk in the past twelve months.
Even Santa Claus has delayed coming into departmental stores and shops in the country’s main cities and towns in the central districts. Jokers say if Santa decides to finally come, he would be thin, a sign of the tough and harsh economic environment.
And Christmas lights are still off in Harare’s First Street while favourite Xmas carol Jingle Bell, Jingle Bells is also not rocking in the shops.
The excitement usually associated with the festive seasons is not in the air with most Zimbabweans jokingly saying this year’s Christmas should be postponed.
“The mood is one of subdued caution as bonuses have been promised but not yet paid. The festive cheer is still a far cry from what we saw in 2011 and 2012 when capacity utilisation in industry rose to as high as 57% and 44% respectively,” says Busisa Moyo, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.
Lucky Mlilo, the chief executive officer of the Association Business Union of Zimbabwe, concurs.
“Business activity is depressed at the moment. Festive season celebrations are no long as big money spending occasions as they used to be…money is also spared for essentials like school fees and utility bills. The festive season has become a period when relatives meet and enjoy the little bit that they can afford,” chipped in Mlilo.
United Kingdom based Zimbabwe journalist-turned economist Bekithemba Mhlanga, however, expects Zimbabweans to simply get on with life as if everything is normal under Mugabe’s administration despite evidence to the contrary.
“But that is the tragedy that such a deplorable way of living has become the norm,” said Mhlanga