Harare, Zimbabwe – This year, Christmas cheer will be missing from the hearts of many Zimbabweans who will have to make do with reminiscing about previous festive seasons instead.
Their country is in the grip of an economic crisis as high inflation, low disposable income, compressed wages, and general economic hardships take their toll.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says the country’s unemployment rate stands at a towering 90 percent as people resort to informal and casual jobs for some form of income.
The government claims the real figure is much lower, taking into account the informal employment.
Zimbabwe’s crisis began last year when the country entered hyperinflation territory and stands at its peak now with inflation above 400 percent, the Zimbabwe dollar at its weakest and salaries depressed.
Disposable incomes are tighter than before, forcing Zimbabweans to forego festivities this year, and affecting the businesses who usually look forward to Christmas as the best time of the year.
Most Zimbabweans interviewed by Al Jazeera are choosing to prioritise what they do with their limited financial resources, opting to buy school uniforms, pay tuition fees and buy books for their children when schools reopen in two weeks.
Even the ones lucky enough to have extra funds are cutting back on spending.
Harrison Makombe, 76
“Christmas this year is like there is no Christmas. Before, we would be anxiously wait for Christmas to arrive. Now, food is expensive and you can’t buy groceries for Christmas like we used to back in the day.“In order to have fun, one needs money. When you don’t have money, you really can’t have fun and enjoy the festive season. So things are difficult for us.
“We have older children who support us now but they are struggling with their own families. So we don’t expect much this Christmas around.”
Regina Marange, 27
“Life is hard as it is and Christmas is going to be very hard.“The little we have now, we have budgeted for my older child (four years old) who should be in preschool next year.
“We decided to forego shopping for clothes. I could not earn money for most of the year from my reselling business because of the lockdown. The money I have now is what I managed to make after the government eased the lockdown. It’s really been a difficult year and Christmas will be worse this time around.”
Patience Nyado, 39
“This Christmas is not looking too good. I didn’t buy new clothes for my three kids and decided I could use the money to pay for school fees due in two weeks.
“I’m employed but really struggling to make ends meet because the salaries are not what they used to be. A few years ago, Christmas was good because salaries used to make sense and people would get bonuses. Now, they earn only 10 percent of what they used to earn.
“That’s why things are very difficult for me this time around. The COVID lockdown and the situation has also made things worse.”
Richard Gamha, 23
“This year’s festive season will be the worst for me. I am on industrial attachment and I get only $20 which I use for transport. I don’t expect much on that budget. My parents provide for me and my four other siblings. This time around they couldn’t buy new clothes for the family as is the tradition.“Christmas holidays from 2009 to 2013 were very good. These days the economy has gotten worse and we do not expect much.”
Nyasha Tafamba, 22
“I need to pay rent and some days I don’t sell anything. Things are difficult. People normally buy lots of clothes around this time around. But this has not been the case. So when they are no customers like this.
“In previous years, one could afford to buy clothes and groceries. This time it’s different and it means I can’t have normal holidays.”