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Review | Harare Show impressive

Schweppes stand at the Harare Agriculture Show. Picture: SCHWEPPES Zimbabwe

Schweppes stand at the Harare Agriculture Show. Picture: SCHWEPPES Zimbabwe

STROLLING through Exhibition Park while sampling displays for this year’s Harare Agricultural Show, the usual feeling of déjà vu is unavoidable. With the show having run for the past 104 years, this is quite expected. As one begins to appreciate the extraordinary effort of the exhibitors, who, for the past decade or so managed to come back and put up displays in a country whose economy is stuttering, one cannot help but admire every exhibit and the tenacity behind such efforts.

Zimbabwe’s biggest annual event showcasing exhibits from various sectors of the economy kicked off last week, and for sure both the young and the old are tracking to Harare’s Exhibition Park as hope for better economic fortunes lingers in the nation. The country’s premier show held under the theme: “Sustaining and Transforming Agricultural Growth”, opened its gates on August 20 and will close on August 30.

On the first day, the event started on a low note, but the crowds had improved by last Friday, two days later, when President Robert Mugabe officially opened the show.  Several exhibitors were still putting finishing touches to their stands as President Mugabe toured Exhibition Park, stopping over at the Julius Nyerere Hall (Agricultural Produce Hall), TelOne and the Zimbabwe National Road Agency stands, among others.

Accompanied by the First Lady, Grace Mugabe and Congo-Brazzaville First Lady, Antoinette Sassou-Nguesso, the President walked through the crowd of show goers who jostled to catch a glimpse of the first family. Officially opening the show, President Mugabe noted that: “The Harare Agricultural Show provides exhibitors, government, regional and international organisations, and the general public, with a unique opportunity to meet, interact and transact various aspects of business. Show time is an occasion to share experiences and insights into future economic trends. Similarly, my tour today to the various stands provided me with that rare opportunity of the much-needed interaction with captains of industry.”

Over 750 exhibitors are participating in this year’s event which the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society lengthened from six days to 11 days to accommodate those in formal employment who have in the past failed to attend the event because of work commitments. Notedly, over 200 small-scale farmers are participating compared to 100 farmers last year and several countries that include Iran, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya and Botswana, are at Harare Show.

Also notable is the return to the show of livestock. Evidently a pale shadow of its past, the livestock section is, however, worth a visit and the show organisers have even scheduled bull sale tomorrow. “Although many companies have responded very well to the annual event, many stands are reflecting the hard economic times. But it should be noted that this event gives the family a chance to unwind and enjoy the fresh air,” said one exhibitor who chose to remain unnamed.

“Our stand was not even ready when the President Mugabe came for the official opening; we had to remain closed until after the President had finished touring the stands. Although in the past we have won a number of awards, this year we did not even invite the judges: we told them we were not ready,” the exhibitor said.

Some show-goers could be heard discussing the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) stand, which is evidently not as impressive as during previous shows. Despite the damper, this did not deter the children and their parents from getting their photos taken while sitting on the police motor bikes. The ZRP stand is popular with kids as they get a chance to ride the police motor bikes.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation stand featuring National Power FM, Radio Zimbabwe, Spot FM and 3FM is also popular with revellers both young and old as they get a chance to mingle with their favourite DJs, get on air as well as enjoy free entertainment from musicians’ live performances.

Although the Agricultural Show has been likened to a big flea market Old Mutual, ProFeeds Dairibord, Hwange Colliery, NetOne, Moonlight Funeral Assurance, Zimoco, Herentals Group of Schools, Nyaradzo Group, John Deere, Grain Marketing Board, CMED, Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and Air Zimbabwe among others have put up impressive stands.

Show-goers are given a lifetime experience as they tour the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) stand with children and adults alike being given a chance to shoot a real gun for US$1. “We always tell all visitors who visit our stand to be wary of using guns and warn them of the dangers associated with such weaponry. Children and even adults are fascinated with the guns on display and they are free to get their photos taken while they are holding the guns,” one of the officers manning the ZDF stand said, adding: “We also provide career guidance for those that are interested in joining the army and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.”

On display at the ZDF stand are assault rifles such as RPD machine gun, AK 47, MK1 as well as rocket launchers, an armoured tank, anti aircraft guns. The armoured tank has proved quite popular with children as they explore the interior and exterior of the heavy artillery. “Every year, I make it a point that I visit the ZDF stand, you get to see different things and learn a thing or two and it is a chance for a civilian to be part of the ‘forbidden’,” said Christine Ziyambi of Budiriro.

Show-goers are also enjoying horse rides provided by the Zimbabwe Prison Services, ZRP and the Zimbabwe National Army including motor bike rides courtesy of the ZRP. And, of course, fireworks will illuminate the skies of Harare tomorrow and Saturday night in their pyrotechnic splendour, a spectacle that should not be missed.