JOB LOSSES and persistent cash shortages have dampened the festive mood with many people in Bulawayo and Gweru predicting one of the worst Christmases in years.
Bulawayo residents who spoke to Southern Eye yesterday said the economic problems bedevilling the country have made celebrating the holiday a luxury.
“It is not clear whether it is a Christmas or what! To me there is nothing to celebrate.
“I do not have money and if I try to make it by working as a taxi driver, the police would be after me demanding bribes. It is very sad,” Bharo Dube, a taxi driver said.
Another taxi driver Nkosana Dube said police officers had made it impossible for them to raise money for their children so they could enjoy the festive season, as they had to pay them bribes.
“Every corner there are police officers and we end up parking our cars because we cannot work for them,” he said.
Ntando Munemo, who is self-employed, said the future seemed bleak as there was no end in sight for the economic problems besetting the country.
Melusi Tlou, another self-employed Bulawayo resident said Christmas would be meaningless without money.
“There is no Christmas to celebrate because we do not have money. I am not employed as you see yourself,” he said. “The year 2014 is going to be the worst year because we are having a bad ending to 2013.”
Another man who preferred to be called ZTM, concurred saying the festive season had not brought any cheer.
“The Christmas is gloomy and bleak at the moment because people do not have money,” he said.
“However, I believe that 2014 will be a better year and I am expecting wonders to projects I am currently running.”
Dorica Muzamo, a vendor, said there was nothing to celebrate during this festive season as there was no money.
“This will be a very boring Christmas because we do not have money,” she said.
“We are earning little from vending because people do not buy our stuff as they used to. I therefore believe that this coming year might bring joy to us so that we could be able to make ends meet.”
However, Belinda Dube, who is also self-employed, said she was still optimistic 2014 would be a good year and the problems would not stop her from celebrating Christmas.
“I believe that 2014 would be a prosperous year because I am always hopeful for the good. God will take us through,” she said.
Meanwhile, company closures in Gweru in the last decade have contributed to the bleak festive season facing hundreds of workers and their families.
The few functional companies are operating well below capacity and have failed to pay workers the 13th cheque.
Gweru’s big companies, such as Zimcast and Kariba batteries, have shut down while Zimalloys, Bata Shoe Company and Zimglass have been facing serious operational problems and have not paid their workers for several months.
“We are in a catch-22 situation my brother. How do I explain to my little kids that there is no money for Christmas? This issue has given me a lot of stress,” Kennias Chiseko, a worker at one of the struggling firms in the city, said.
The economic hardships have seen several companies failing to pay workers their full salaries by last Friday.
Only a fortnight ago, workers at glass manufacturer, Zimglass, blocked management from leaving their offices in protest over outstanding wages dating back to 2009.
“We are in quandary. We don’t know how we will celebrate the festive season like other workers. We were advised that the company could only pay our dues on the last day of December,” another worker, Mercy Rupepa, said.
The workers’ plight has further been worsened by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s failure to announce a clear position on how distressed companies would be revived in his 2014 national budget presented last week Thursday.