In Zim­babwe’s eco­nomic melt­down, Christ­mas is out of reach for many

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

HARARE, Zim­babwe: Nai­son Mak­wechede rum­mages through piles of used clothes at a busy flea mar­ket in Zim­babwe’s cap­i­tal in hopes of find­ing Christ­mas clothes for his fam­ily. This sec­ond­hand search is new ter­rain for the fa­ther of three, who al­ways buys new clothes for his chil­dren this time of year in line with lo­cal hol­i­day tra­di­tion.

“The bond note is the only new thing in my pos­ses­sion,” said Mak­wechede, re­fer­ring to Zim­babwe’s lat­est at­tempt to ad­dress a spi­ral­ing cur­rency cri­sis. Most peo­ple in this once-pros­per­ous south­ern African coun­try are strug­gling to af­ford Christ­mas as the econ­omy im­plodes.

The US dol­lar, the main cur­rency used since Zim­babwe aban­doned its own in 2009, is in such short sup­ply that some peo­ple sleep out­side banks in the hope of with­draw­ing what they can. In this pre­dom­i­nantly Chris­tian coun­try, the hol­i­day pe­riod is tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with wild merry-mak­ing, travel, fam­ily gath­er­ings and new clothes. This year is dif­fer­ent.

But not for ev­ery­one. The 7,000 del­e­gates who at­tended the rul­ing ZANU-PF party’s con­fer­ence last week­end took home good­ies, in­clud­ing five kilo­grams (11 pounds) of rice, in a hol­i­day bag dec­o­rated with pic­tures of long­time Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe and his wife, Grace. The po­lit­i­cal meet­ing brought a tem­po­rary boom to the usu­ally sleepy town of Masvingo, where ho­tels and lodges were fully booked and usu­ally empty halls teemed. In­for­mal ven­dors, who now make up the bulk of Zim­babwe’s adult pop­u­la­tion, said they had brisk busi­ness of sev­eral items, in­clud­ing con­doms. The party con­fer­ence en­dorsed the 92-year-old Mu­gabe, who has led the coun­try since its in­de­pen­dence from white mi­nor­ity rule in 1980, as its can­di­date in the up­com­ing elec­tions.

Mu­gabe told the del­e­gates the econ­omy was on the mend. But the govern­ment, which has failed to pay civil ser­vants on time since June, in­di­cated it will only be able to pay the mil­i­tary, po­lice, prison ser­vices and health work­ers be­fore Christ­mas. “It is sad. Our mem­bers will not have their salaries, so they are fore­go­ing Christ­mas this year,” said Si­fiso Ndlovu, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Zim­babwe Teach­ers Union. — AP

HARARE: A bag ven­dor waits for clients, on a street, in Harare. Most peo­ple in this once-pros­per­ous south­ern African coun­try are strug­gling to af­ford Christ­mas as the econ­omy im­plodes. —AP

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