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Cash shortages: Rural folk hit hardest

30/12/2016 00:00:00
by Xinhua
 
No point of sale terminals in most rural areas
 
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FOR many Zimbabweans, the festivity during this year’s Christmas and New Year holidays has been dented by the persisting cash shortage.

Civil servants are in a more difficult position as many of them will only get their December salaries after the holidays.

Only health workers and uniformed forces received their salaries before Christmas on Dec. 21, while teachers will be paid on December 28 and the rest of the civil servants on Jan. 3, 2017.

Pensioners, as usual, will be the last to be paid on Jan. 6, way after the festive season has ended.

Although civil servants are not happy with the pay dates, the government has already been financially hamstrung, struggling monthly to meet the labor costs which gobble more than 90 percent of revenue.

The government had also failed to pay most of its workers before the festive season in 2015.

A civil servant who prefers not to be named said just like the previous year, this year’s holiday will not mean much to him.

“I literally feed from hand to mouth because of our meager salaries. But when we have to spend probably the most important holiday in the family setup without cash we feel the pain and the gloom is also felt by our children,” he said.

He was not alone in his anguish as many companies, especially small businesses, also failed to pay their employees on time and promised to do so early in the new year.

“Our boss came to us on closing day and simply said ‘see you next year’ without giving us our salaries,” said motor mechanic Chris Mushunje.

Those who were paid are however finding it difficult to get cash from the banks, despite an injection of 29 million dollars worth of bond notes to ease cash shortages.

Mushunje said while it was prudent to use plastic money whenever he could, he became limited when he went to rural areas where swipe machines were not available.

Zimbabweans have a tradition of retreating to rural areas at Christmas and New Year to celebrate the with friends and relatives, while those who stay behind in towns also make the best of the season by having special food and drinks.

Children expect their parents to buy them new clothes and toys, but those opting for vendors who sell wares in the streets at lower prices are troubled by the vendors’ lack of swipe machines and therefore their demand for cash.



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Most banks had long queues outside their premises on last Friday as clients hoped to make last-minute withdrawals ahead of the holidays.

The townsfolk who prefer to buy groceries using plastic money are relatively little affected.

A middle manager at one of the country’s leading chain stores said they had been very busy since last Wednesday with people doing their Christmas shopping.

He said some shoppers were taking advantage of the retail chain’s cash-back facility where customers are allowed to encash certain amounts of money from the tills depending on how much they would have bought.

“Customers wait for a long time before the cash is available and at the end of the day they go home with something,” he said.

However, the situation is different in rural areas where retailers either do not have the point of sale machines or demand more for use of the service, with no option for cash-back.

Zivanai Mutadza, a resident in Midlands province, said he was recently at a rural service center and was asked to pay 15 percent more for the fuel he had bought from the only dealer with a swipe machine there.

He said with the prevailing cash shortages, many people in rural areas will have a miserable holiday.

“It is now only Christmas by name, otherwise the spirit is long gone and there is nothing festive about it,” he said.


 
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