HARARE — Zimbabwe heads into Christmas with a struggling economy and shortages of basic goods — enough to dampen anyone’s holiday spirit. But in the capital, comedians are still managing to laugh it off.Sam Farai Munro, a member of the Magamba TV crew, a satirical group, said their version of “Jingle Bells” sums up the problems Zimbabwe faces: high unemployment, rising inflation, a depreciating currency and an acute shortage of basic commodities such as cash and fuel.
“We thought — ‘let’s do a Christmas special, a jingle bells re-mix, with real, real, Zimbabwean context,'” he said. “That is how we came out with it. We are going through tough times, let’s at least get to laugh about it.”
Comedian Victor Tinashe Mpofu, 32, known as Doc Vikela on stage, jokingly said he quit alcohol as its price has gone up. He said humor helps people cope with tragedies and the stress of their daily lives.
“Every time we find a tragedy we polish it up, spin in up, and present it to the people,” he said. “Right now it does help me to sit at home and cry about beer. But if I can talk about it on stage so be it. It’s diverting people from the stresses of the world. I think they will talk about this joke for a week. By the time they finish, it’s is end of Christmas and we are into the new year.”
Forty-year-old Clive Mushayi said he became a street vendor four years ago after he lost his job as an automobile mechanic.
He said sales for Christmas items are depressed this year, and he cannot afford to go to his rural home about 300 kilometers east of Harare to be with his relatives.
“I can’t enjoy life before January because my children have to go to school,” he said. “People will say they were enjoying Christmas [when] my child is fired from school. … Sales are very low, I won’t lie to you.”
Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s finance and economic development minister, said he is aware of the pain citizens are going through, but there are signs of progress already.
“We balanced the budget in September this year,” he said. “We will be able to do so for the rest of the year. We have an arrangement with our partners, the Paris Club, and they are supportive of Zimbabwe. All this put together will lower the budget deficit to about 5 percent by end of 2019 from the current 11 percent at the end of 2018, so this is good progress.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government calls the current pain “austerity for prosperity.” But comedians find the austerity measures biting for the country’s overburdened populace this Christmas.