As if to confirm that this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) was a Zanu-PF affair, the ruling party walked away with two best exhibitors’ awards.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party, which first showcased at the ZITF in 2015, occupied the entire Hall 5 with various organs of the party from the commissariat to Young Women for ED (YW4ED) initiative exhibiting under the same roof. The YW4ED was launched by first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in August to draw support for the ruling party.
It targets women between the ages 18 to 45.
Unlike in the past where the party invited small to medium enterprises to showcase at its rented Hall 5, this year it was an exclusively Zanu-PF affair as the party evidently ramps its election campaign to mobilise the touted five million supporters ahead of the 2023 elections.
Away from Zanu-PF’s Hall 5, one could not fail to see that the annual trade showcase was a pale shadow of its former self, with some stands unoccupied, and pavilions locked with chains.
Occupied pavilions and other exhibition stands have not been repainted in a long time.
Alpha and Omega Dairies, a fresh milk and dairy products company owned by the late former president Robert Mugabe and his wife is one such
company that failed to exhibit at the 61 edition of the fair. The failure seemed a clear indication that local companies are finding the going tough despite claims of an economic turnaround by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
During its heydays, Alpha and Omega Dairies was, like Zanu-PF, a star attraction for the judges, walking away with severalawards for best exhibitions from 2015 to 2017, the year Mugabe was toppled from power.
Only 25% of companies from Bulawayo exhibited this year, with the rest coming from other parts of the country, according to statistics provided by the ZITF Company. The majority of companies in Zimbabwe are choking under a myriad of challenges in sync with the collapsing local currency.
Only 10 countries represented by individual companies exhibited and occupied small exhibition spaces, down from 17 recorded in 2019.
It had to take government departments, ministries, police and army, state owned universities and other agencies to fill the gap.
As always, struggling government parastatals like the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Grain Marketing Board and Hwange Colliery Company exhibited.
Even on Friday, the only day when the fair was opened to ordinary people owing to Covid-19 fears, the ZITF looked deserted compared to previous years when human traffic made it difficult to move around the trade fair grounds.
At the official opening of the fair, it was apparent that this year’s exhibition running under the theme, ‘Showcasing the New Normal for Business and Industry: Realities and Opportunities,’ was a Zanu-PF affair as its supporters seemed to outnumber delegates in attendance.
“ED Pfee,” bused Zanu-PF supporters chanted during the official opening of the ZITF on Thursday. The previous day, the Zanu-PF supporters were bused to get a Covid-19 jab at Mpilo Hospital.
Bulawayo-based economic commentator Reginald Shoko said: “Going forward, one will wish to see more sectordriven exhibitions like Mine Entra that would help development of our industry and at the same time utilising the available space at the exhibition centre.”