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Zimbabwe Facing Christmas Woes as Economy Stutters


FILE: A man takes time to sit down after waiting for hours in a bank queue in Harare. Most people in this once-prosperous southern African country are struggling to afford Christmas as the economy implodes. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabweans are heading into the Christmas holiday facing one of the worst economies in years. Frequent power cuts, long fuel lines, a months-long doctors’ strike, soaring inflation, and cash shortages are making it hard to be festive.

Zimbabwe's Christmas shoppers are doing their best to be merry despite the struggling economy.

But with the economy stuck in a deep slump, and high inflation eating into the savings and earnings of every Zimbabwean, festivity, like fuel and electricity, is in short supply.

"2019 festive season is one of the (most) difficult festive season that I have experienced. If you look at the prices of the basic, basic commodities, they are so out of reach for many of us. We can afford to buy this because we are people who are earning something. But just imagine for those who are not going to work and are not getting anything at the end of the month. It means they have no Christmas to celebrate about."

A clown is seen on the streets of Harare in this Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, photo. Zimbabwe faces Christmas amid a harsh economic crisis that has forced many people to queue for cash and for fuel, making it difficult to plan for the festive period.(AP)
A clown is seen on the streets of Harare in this Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, photo. Zimbabwe faces Christmas amid a harsh economic crisis that has forced many people to queue for cash and for fuel, making it difficult to plan for the festive period.(AP)

At a Catholic church outside of Harare, Father Fidelis Muokonori presides over the last mass before Christmas.

Church members give their wishes for this festive season and almost all are about the economy and hunger ravaging Zimbabwe.

Muokonori says the country is experiencing its worst Christmas in decades as the poor get poorer.

"The festive season is lukewarm…. Go into the shops… Prices are changing everyday… That is not a life to live of a people."

Zimbabwean authorities say they are doing their best to improve the economy and the holiday for the majority Christian nation.

Monica Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe Information Minister, says, "We know we have gone through difficult times as a nation, but government has been working very flat-out to make sure that we put safety nets for our poorest. We have actually seen the price of mealie (corn) meal coming down. We have seen … government doing everything to make sure that our people have a good Christmas. What the government wants is to see their people happy and government is leaving no stone unturned."

But with 60 percent of the population food insecure and over five million receiving food aid, according to the United Nations, it will be hard for many in Zimbabwe to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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