Festive mood grips Zimbabwe

Street vendors prepare Christmas trees for sale on a street corner in Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2022. A buoyant holiday mood is not lifting the country which is coping with widespread power outages and the world's highest food inflation. (AP Photo)
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MOST Zimbabweans will tomorrow celebrate Christmas Day in a jubilant mood, as civil servants smiled all the way to the bank after receiving their bonuses on time, while the authorities have put in place measures to maintain price stability.

Harare and other parts of the country were abuzz with activity yesterday, with retail outlets packed with customers doing their last-minute shopping.

There were long queues at banks for the better part of last week, as citizens withdrew cash to spend over the holidays.

Civil servants commended the Government for paying them their bonuses early, as the Second Republic fulfilled its commitment to its workforce.

The bonuses were paid in instalments from November to December across all sectors to ease pressure on cash flows.

Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions president Mrs Cecilia Alexander said civil servants were looking forward to a joyful Christmas, after Government paid them on time.

“I can confirm that civil servants received their bonuses well before the festive season, something that has never happened before. Previously, some would actually go without being paid, a situation that was not pleasant.

“We all know that Christmas is a time to enjoy with family and loved ones and you cannot do that when you don’t have money, but this time, the Government stood by its promise of paying us early, which is what we had agreed in our negotiations,” she said.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association acting secretary-general Mr Godwill Taderera said teachers were pleased to pocket the 13th cheque.

“Some retailers have been taking advantage of this by charging exorbitant prices. However, I want to thank the Government for keeping their promise of paying us our bonuses on time. I am very happy because the money came on time, unlike in the previous years,” he said.

The current price stability, following a series of effective interventions by the Government, has boosted holiday shopping, with greater spending being noticeable in various shops in Harare.

In a snap survey conducted by The Sunday Mail yesterday, shopping was mainly concentrated in clothing, gift, liquor and foodstuff shops.

Government has already put in place measures to guard against exploitation of consumers by unscrupulous business owners. A total of 142 businesses were prosecuted for various offences in the week ending December 15.

Although there were some business owners taking advantage of last-minute shoppers, Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) chairperson Dr Mthokozisi Nkosi said they were against unfair trade practices.

He said the CPC had intensified the blitz on errant retailers.

“The commission has been working with other enforcement agencies such as the police and the Trade Measures Department in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to prosecute those businesses found on the wrong side of the law.

“During the week ending 15 December 2023, the commission conducted 326 inspections in Harare alone, with 142 businesses prosecuted for various offences such as failure to display prices of goods and services, refusing to give customers refunds, failure to issue sales receipts, selling expired products, non-issuing of warrant, selling products which are not properly labelled and with no trade descriptions,” he said.”

“Some businesses have generally been unethical during the festive and bonus payment period. We encourage sector associations to deal with their members who randomly raise prices with no justifications. The same consumer they milk today is the same consumer they expect to buy from them when the bonus hype is over. We want businesses to act responsibly.”

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) chief executive officer Mrs Rosemary Mpofu said consumers should get full value of their hard-earned incomes.

“As CCZ, we are monitoring and tracking prices of basic goods and services, in line with our mandate of consumer protection during this festive season to ensure consumers are protected against any unethical and unscrupulous business practices happening in the market

“We urge the business community not to take advantage of the festive season period to hike prices of goods without any justification in a bid to rip off consumers of their 13th cheque,” she said.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu said Government’s intervention to contain the exchange rate has resulted in price stability.

“Price stability was achieved after Government’s measures to contain marauding price escalations and exchange rate distortions driven by speculative behaviour on the parallel market.

“The festive season has remained calm and not experienced wanton price increases and profiteering. Basic commodities and non-essentials are fully stocked, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages,” he said.

He discouraged consumers from panic-buying.

“Consumers should not panic-buy as basic goods are sufficiently available across the country, with special attention being given to rural areas and other marginalised areas. Our research has shown that both urban and rural shops are well-stocked, ready for the festive season,” said Mr Mutashu.