MAny businesses remained open during the just ended festive season as entrepreneurs in Harare sought to salvage some profits after experiencing low sales due to the liquidity crunch.
BY our staff
While Christmas is traditionally a time when many businesses shut down to give workers time to be with their families, many shops in the capital ignored the holidays in a bid to allow some of their biggest customers, the civil servants, who did not get their bonuses on time, to buy goods.
According to Shuvai Mugore, a motor spares dealer along Kaguvi Street in Harare, Christmas has totally lost its significance largely because of acute cash shortages.
“Cash problems that we faced this festive season have reminded many traders of 2008 that was characterised by long meandering queues in banks and empty supermarket shelves,” Mugore said.
“I did not close shop for the festive season because I could not afford to lose out on a day’s profit. Many business people remained open because to them every cent counted in light of the low customer turnout.”
Marylyn Chipfiko, another dealer trading at Gulf Complex concurred with Mugore, adding that Christmas was distorted largely by the fact that civil servants did not get their bonuses on time.
“We decided to operate on Christmas day and on other holidays because business has not been good in past months,” she said.
“In previous years towards the holidays when civil servants got their salaries and bonuses, our business boomed, but this did not happen last year, forcing us to work throughout the holidays.”
Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa failed to live up to the expectations of government employees when he announced that government was committed to paying “meaningful salaries” that were above the poverty datum line, without stating how the government would fulfil its promise.
This uncertainty led to a sullen mood as scores of families could not enjoy the festive season to the fullest, knowing very well what would await them in January.
Children were also included in the despair as many missed their usual festive goodies; new clothes and presents.
There was little cheer for many workers as they did not have money to spend or were still waiting to get their salaries.
On the contrary, some workers who got half salaries did not have enough to spend as the festive mood gripped the country.
At the end of the day, their paltry salaries and bonuses were not enough to afford them the usual Christmas shopping spree.
An employee at Micro Field Private Limited, Simbarashe Vito acknowledged getting his salary and bonus on time, but still faced a dull Christmas.
“I got paid early, but I still did not enjoy the luxury of Christmas because the prices were too high,” he said.
“I also had to minimise my spending for fear of the dreaded ‘January disease.’”
These sentiments were echoed by many Zimbabweans as most used their December salaries to prepare for their children’s education; that is pay school fees and buy school uniforms.
President of the retailers Association Zimbabwe Themba Ndebele was recently quoted as saying the organisation could not prevent supermarkets from increasing prices of basic commodities.
He attributed the high prices to the import duties imposed on basic goods like cooking oil and maize meal.
Ndebele said local producers in turn raised their prices to match importers who passed on their expenses to the consumers.