ZIMBABWE – BULAWAYO – Besides taking part in festivities common at this time of the year, many Zimbabweans also take time to take stock of the passing year and reflect on the prospects of the coming one.
For many, the New Year normally offers a chance for a new beginning and a better life, but most Zimbabweans remain pessimistic about the future.
Bulawayo resident Musawenkosi Nyoni says she believes that it is by God’s grace that she has gone through what she describes as a very tough year for her and her family.
Nyoni, is an informal trader and also the chairperson of the Bulawayo province of the Zimbabwe Chamber of the Informal Economy Associations, a grouping that brings together an array of informal traders, including those who run flea markets like herself.
She says business has been so bad that she can’t even take a break for the festive season, hoping to capitalize on the odd client who would do last minute shopping.
Although Nyoni says she is not a pessimist, she says if there is no drastic change for the better in the country’s economy in the coming year, she sees herself being unable to continue her business as she has been struggling to break even.
Zanele Nyathi, a cross boarder trader, says by this time of the year, she would have saved enough to pay for her children’s fees for the next term and also to spoil them but notes that at the moment she is struggling to provide them with the basic necessities.
Nyathi, who buys and resells clothes and basics from Botswana and South Africa, says the fall of the Rand has seriously affected her income.
She too is worried that she could be compelled to stop her only source of livelihood and hopes that government takes decisive steps to ensure that the multi-currency regime does not create further hardships for the ordinary majority.
“Ever since the Rand went down, business has been difficult. You know I just wish the government could do something about this multi-currency system because at the moment it’s not working for some sectors of business. Most of us are now informal traders and this current situation is not really friendly to any of us.”
The fall of the Rand has mostly affected people in Bulawayo and the hinterland as most people from the region either work in South Africa or find it convenient to buy their basic goods from the neighbouring country.
FALL OF THE RAND
Tineyi Piki, is a Zimbabwean artisan who works for a South African manufacturing company. Piki, who always comes back home during the festive season, also laments the fall of the Rand.
“I’ve always been bringing home some hard currency in the form of rands, usually between three thousand and five thousand, and also some groceries for my family. But right now with the cash that I’ve brought, I can’t even buy anything because shops are reluctant to take the rand, so the whole festive season is going to be a nightmare for me. I’m likely to also have a problem raising enough money to go back to work; it’s been a very challenging situation for me and my family.”
Researcher Butler Tambo of the Bulawayo-based Public Policy Research Institute of Zimbabwe says instead of continuing with the multi-currency regime, it could be advantageous for Zimbabwe to join the Rand Monetary Union, which includes South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.
He says although it has its own disadvantages, Zimbabwe would gain from signorage rights, and get credit facilities from South African financial institutions, while also tapping into the advanced South African industry for retooling.
Tambo says Zimbabwe needs to address the availability and cost of utilities like electricity and water, among other fundamentals, as part of the solution to the current economic crisis.
He adds that the fact that a number of prominent well-to-do figures have had their properties attached over debts in the passing year means that things have been bad and could continue to get worse in the coming year.
For Matabeleland chapter president Reginald Shoko of the Affirmative Action Group, there have been some strides made in 2015 regarding the empowerment of indigenous locals, but government needs to get rid of policy discord, which he says is partly to blame for scaring away much-needed foreign direct investment.
Shoko is in favour of internal devaluation, which – though criticized by some – he says would help bring down the cost of doing business in the country and thereby spurring economic revival.
Shoko says government and ordinary Zimbabweans have to be prepared to take tough decisions if the economy is to be revived.
“It’s going to be a painful year next year because it calls on all of us – government, industry and ordinary Zimbabweans- to understand one thing: we need to cut down on so many things. Government itself needs to cut on the taxes on industry and business, it needs to cut down on salaries as well as other non-essential expenditure.”
Iphithule Maphosa, the provincial youth chairperson of ZAPU who is also the party’s director of information and publicity in the southern region, says the spectre of a drought will worsen the country’s economic situation.
He, however, adds that there is a glimmer of hope for some improvement if the much-publicized deals between Zimbabwe and China come to fruition.
He also urges government not to rely on China alone but also to mend its relations with western countries in order to attract more foreign direct investment and revive the economy.
The passing year has undoubtedly been tough for ordinary Zimbabweans, but despite the doom and gloom, the New Year could provide the proverbial new beginning for the nation.