Businesses, travellers report dampened Christmas
LOW business activities characterised this year’s Christmas holiday with most retail shops recording poor sales in Mutare city centre as price hikes hit hard on consumers’ disposable income.
The current fuel crisis also left a huge dent on many as merry makers could hardly travel due to lack of fuel or its exorbitant prices which were being charged by transporters.
A snap survey by The Manica Post from Saturday to Monday revealed less activities in retail shops with less customers compared to previous years seen in supermarkets such as Pick ‘n’ Pay, OK Zimbabwe and Spar as they did their last minute shopping.
There was also low turn-out at fast foods outlets dotted around the city as soaring prices seemed to have chased away customers.
“Many people did not enjoy their Christmas holiday due to continuous increases of prices of basic commodities and shortages of beverages,” said Mrs Precious Nyandoro.
“We could not have a special meal on Christmas Day as we used to do in the previous years. We ended up having an ordinary meal which was not as expected,” she said.
Talent Kucha said she had a torrid time in searching for cheaper clothes for her children as prices had gone up in most clothing shops.
She said they were also under pressure from their children who were expecting new clothes as per other previous years.
“We were under pressure from children who insisted on having new clothes on Christmas Day. These children do not understand what we are going through as parents concerning financial challenges that we are facing. We have to struggle through to provide for them,” said Mrs Kucha.
Some people who were looking forward to travelling this holiday said they were forced to abort their journeys because of transport costs.
Commuters were left stranded as some transporters hiked their fares more than three times from last week’s prices.
John Kutaika from Chikanga said he was forced to abort his journey after failing to raise the fares which were being charged.
“We failed to travel to our rural home due to fares being demanded by transporters. We hoped that we will reconnect with our rural folks during the Christmas but we failed,” he said.
A trip from Mutare to Harare was $25 up from an average of $8.
Travelling from Mutare to Gweru was between $30 and $35 up from about $15 a week ago with those travelling from Mutare to Bulawayo had to part with fares ranging between $35 and $40.
Transport operators claimed they were buying diesel from the black market where prices were hugely inflated.
They claimed 20 litres of diesel was costing $80 depending on the day’s demand.
“We are forced to hike these fares because of fuel shortages. We are relying on the black market for supplies. Some people are hoarding the fuel causing an artificial shortage on the market,” said Tendai Ndemera, a bus operator.
Mr Thomas Mukuyu, a bus driver with Serengeti Bus Services, said they were being forced to buy fuel from black market as transporters are not patient to wait for fuel in queues especially when demand is high during the holidays.
“If the fuel situation remains constrained primarily due to a huge increase in demand, some will not be patient to wait in long queues and will resort to buy fuel on the black market at high prices. While we resort to buy fuel on the black market, we will be left with no choice but to hike the fares,” he said.
Most shops and supermarkets ran out of drinks during the Christmas period