Zim's worst Xmas ever

HARARE - Long-suffering Zimbabweans face another bleak Christmas next week, with both political and economic analysts fingering President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party's continuing misrule as the genesis of the crisis.

Analysts, corporates, trade unions and ordinary Zimbabweans canvassed by the Daily News yesterday were united in bemoaning 2014 as “yet another annus horibilis (horrible year)" — amid fears that 2015 would even be worse than this year.

So bad is the economic situation in the country and the lot of ordinary Zimbabweans that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has even likened Mugabe and Zanu PF to the Grinch that stole Christmas.

Tsvangirai was delivering his end of year address earlier this week at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare, the MDC leader said Zanu PF had not only failed dismally to deliver on all its election promises since last year’s disputed national elections, but also continued to mismanage the country and its economy.

“Zimbabweans are suffering. The carnival atmosphere synonymous with this time of the year is sorely absent in the country.

“In the run-up to this festive season, we are not seeing housewives pushing full trolleys out of supermarkets and food chains as they did during the inclusive government era.

“All we see are hard working vendors crowding our streets and struggling to survive. The people have no money in their pockets; there is no food in our homes and yet the shops and supermarkets are full of goods and products that we cannot afford,” Tsvangirai said.

He added that after “stealing yet another election”, Mugabe had promised to create 2,2 million jobs, increase productivity in our industries and add more disposable income in people’s pockets, among many other empty promises.

“But the reality is something completely different; companies are closing, all hope is now completely shattered and the economic prospects remain dim for the country and its people,” he said.

Presenting his national budget last month, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed that 4 500 companies had shut down since 2011, with more than 55 000 workers having lost their jobs as a result.

Over and above that, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries’ latest manufacturing sector survey observes that the bulk of companies still in business are operating well below their capacity levels, with only 36 percent of factory capacity in use.

This means that for the average citizen, the festive season celebrations will be muted at best as even the cash-strapped government has failed to pay all its workers its promised bonuses before the festivities.

Economic and social commentator Tendayi Dudzai told the Daily News yesterday that the festive season this year was “painfully” slow mainly because of the dire economic climate prevailing in the country.

“It is not normal even when one looks at the volume of people pushing food trolleys from retail outlets.

“Maybe it is because civil servants who now constitute the bulk of the country’s working class have not yet received their dues. It really looks dull,” Dudzai said.

Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson of the MDC renewal team described this year’s festivities as “catastrophic”.

Mafume said prospects for the country’s economy had deteriorated further since Chinamasa presented his “clueless and inept budget”.

“The Christmas cheer has once again been stolen by Zanu PF and it marks the beginning of a year of suffering and doom as politicians expend their energy on fighting for political survival at the expense of people’s needs.

“We only hope that next year when the year renews, people will also renew and contest on the platform of ideas not positions,” Mafume said.

On its part, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe observed that consumer buying patterns had changed this year due to the low disposable incomes prevailing in the country.

“People do not have the money due to the liquidity crisis. Companies are carrying massive promotions to attract customers which shows that they are not getting the business they were expecting,” said Comfort Muchekeza of the council’s Bulawayo chapter.

Commentators say the country’s economy is actually contracting, with State revenues falling while its expenditure has exceeded budget by 15%.

One economist said yesterday so serious are the State’s fiscal constraints that it was  very likely that the government would not be able to meet even the most critical of its needs in 2015.

“Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is falling precipitously, signifying a terrible performance rate that could eclipse the 2008 economic crisis when hyper-inflation ran riot.

“The recovery from a decade-long recession is wavering as factories shut down and households come under increasing pressure because of job cuts by private companies,” he said.

As a result, ordinary Zimbabweans are despondent and pessimistic about their futures.

“I don’t have anything to look forward to this Christmas. Since I lost my job in May when the shop I was working for closed, I have been doing menial jobs here and there to keep my family alive, so Christmas is a swear word for me.

“Only the few rich and the fat politicians are feasting this Christmas,” said a dejected former retail employee Miriro Mtetwa.

A recent report by Econometer Global Capital (Econometer) showed that by year-end, unemployment in Zimbabwe would have topped 92 percent, with most companies intensifying staff retrenchment exercises, including the government itself.

Amid the doom and gloom, most Zimbabweans have been irked by Mugabe and Zanu PF’s debilitating failure to find solutions to their plight.

Only recently, Dephine Mazambani, a senior economist with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, said de-industrialisation in the country had reached “catastrophic” levels, with dire consequences to the economy.

“The panacea to the challenges that the economy is facing is to stimulate production for economic recovery,” she said, adding that “this can only be achieved through pursuing consistent, transparent and predictable economic policies”.

“These need to be supported by a bold shift by government towards reducing the cost of doing business,” she said.

Also commenting on the economy recently, Doing Business Committee (DBC) chair, Maureen Chitehwe, said “after all has been said and done”, Zimbabwe needs political will to arrest the country’s deteriorating business environment.

She said “there is no need to keep forming committees, (but) it’s time to roll our sleeves and get the job done”.

“Our view is that without political will, we will continue to set up ad hoc committees that will evaluate the work of sub committees that were set up to research on committees, which were defined by committees, but needed advice from a committee whose mandate was based on the recommendations of an ad hoc committee…” said Chitehwe, a lawyer by profession.

She said political will was all about policy makers deciding to act on pressing matters.

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