By Shingirai Vambe
…with room for improvement as fair closes
BULAWAYO residents, corporate business players and various stakeholders have expressed mixed feelings over the just ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
Exhibitors who converged in the City of Kings, availing business to the hospitality industry in the just ended week left very little fortunes. Memories of the past Trade Fairs had benefited all players across the economic sector, unlike the just ended 2022 business extravaganza.
Accommodation in Bulawayo went up from US $50 for a room in a decent lodge to between $150 and $250 per night.
Bottle stores and night clubs (food and beverage) outlets enjoyed the brisk sales in the trading days.
However, some residents and business players who were at the ZITF 2022 told Post On Sunday that there isn’t much to celebrate as the economy continues to crumble.
“On condition of anonymity, it is actually expensive to come and exhibit here at the ZITF, transport and accommodation costs are high comparing to business opportunities which came through during the Trade Fair. We use a lot of resources to be here, only to see a sister company which is also in Harare exhibiting. I can possibly visit at any given time without losing more,” said one exhibitor.
He added his past experience that, in old days, exhibitors would make sales and get big orders.
“This time, when business is struggling to grow after the effects of Covid-19 and the economic instability, the ZITF has become a ceremonial event which is fast getting to be a government programme where all ministries and government officials must attend and exhibit, regardless of budget constraints and performance,” he added.
One Bulawayo resident advised this publication to inform leadership to address root cause of challenges bedevilling the nation first.
“Fix the country first before going international,” said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.
An accountant for a local firm said the current political situation in the country is not permissive and is choking the industry and commercial sector.
“Besides being made public over the weekend, the event hosts a number ministries and exciting activities for children, I, however, wouldn’t visit because this is a trade event among countries and business players. We currently can’t talk on what is happening in the political arena,” she said.
The ZITF came at a time when majority of civil servants had long got their salaries.
Many of them were packing and preparing to leave to their respective stations today, May 1, 2022, Workers Day holiday and Monday being a holiday as well.
The holiday is over, children are going back to school on Tuesday.
Eroded by inflation which is currently above 92 percent, the salaries for civil servants have lost the taste of the economic cake, pegged in RTGS and bond notes, while majority of schools are now demanding fees in US dollars or charging in local currency at parallel market rates.
During the International Business Conference, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president, Tinashe Manzungu told Post On Sunday that the exchange rate and currency had affected a lot in terms of value chain which is indirectly affecting every citizen.
Daily changes of prices of goods and services in both local and international currency in Zimbabwe has seen many living below the poverty datum line.
Former Ministry of Education, Permanent Secretary Olivia Utete Masango probbed Industry and Commerce oto proffer possible solutions to the economy, no conclusive response came from the two industry bodies, the ZNCC and CZI.
The Trade Fair event was labelled a holiday tour for many as parastatals and their board members annually attending the ZITF calling it a ceremonial holiday event.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said it is most likely that teachers may fail to attend to classes coming Tuesday as they are bankrupt.
Raymond Majongwe said teachers have children just like any other civil servant, they also want to go to school, no fees and not able to meet transport costs.
Obert Masaraure of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) told this publication that the government has failed to meet its obligation as previously promised, to pay fees for teachers children.
“The promised ZWL$20 000 never came, including money for those who marked the November Zimsec examination papers, they haven’t been fully paid,” said Masaraure.
He added the money is being eroded every day and the delays in payments while given the money using the bank official rate, makes no sense.
“The Government of Zimbabwe should abandon its extravagant tours to the Tade Fair when treasury does not have money. Each year ministries are not fully funded, they are underfunded, first being budgeted with resources which are not available. They should live business players do business and exhibitions, said Masaraure.
Regardless of challenges choking various towns and cities almost all local authorities found their way to the ZITF when residents are facing water and refuse challenges every day.
The Parliament of Zimbabwe was also exhibiting in this year’s 2022 ZITF like any other year, and the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Francis Mundenda toured the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Justice, Zanu PF, UN, ZIDA and ZBC stands.
Ministers and Permanent Secretaries also toured various stands in the ground and visited their own stands and left with few complimentary goodies.
Companies were also giving away freebies exchanging with other companies and stakeholders.
The theme for this year’s ZITF was Rethink, Reinvent, Reimagine.
Few new exhibitors participated in the trade fair, with 14 international and regional countries and one unique stand among many was that of the liberation war heroes.
Tendai Ndlovu, who also exhibited told this publication that this year’s trade fair was better, it had movement and high traffic contrary to last year, which was affected by Covid-19 which had many restrictive measures.
“It’s during these four days when others pocket few dollars for their upkeep, from young students, because they will be engaged in various activities, offering different services, from cleaning, ushering to mention just a few.
So it can’t be true that Harare people have come to Bulawayo to do business with Harare companies and government ministries which are centralised in Harare,” he queried.
On the 27th, the Vice President, Constantine Guveya Chiwenga officially opened the International Business Conference and on Friday Afternoon, The President, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa officially opened the 2022 ZITF.
Both bemoaned the unjustified increase of prices and rates in the parallel market.
The President addressed a large gathering on Friday, a total of 7 ZUPCO buses ferried Zanu PF supporters and Johane Masowe Church members to attend to the official opening and during his address the President said the Expo received an overwhelming response with 100 percent of exhibition stands taken up for the first time.
He urged the ZITF company to construct additional stalls to allow more participants.
During the trade fair the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was registering people to vote, the registry department was issuing Identity documents while motorist took advantage of the event to pay their vehicle licenses at a discounted rate at the Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (ZINARA) stand.