The last week of August each year is the most festive and longest period of social gatherings, interaction, entertainment and celebration in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare [and also in other towns] outside of the annual Christmas holiday. Sadly this year marks the first time since independence that this period has experienced a no-show due to the Covid_19 global pandemic.
By Plot Mhako
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease that is triggered by a newly discovered coronavirus which broke-out early this year. The virus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through droplet infection when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales. The highly infectious virus thrives in densely populated places where there is human contact and interaction making a gathering like the annual Harare Agricultural Show a potential breeding ground if its to go ahead.
The Harare Agricultural Show is Zimbabwe’s biggest agricultural business exhibition which takes place every year for at least 110 years. The Show is run and administered by the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) and takes place in August at the Exhibition Park Grounds in the capital city Harare hosting local and international exhibitions.
The exhibitions are mainly by farmers [both small and big scale farmers] and corporates take place for about a week amidst entertainment from artists, corporate exhibitions and government departments.
A number of events and activities filled with entertainment, product and services displays take place at various exhibition stands with the most popular ones being the displays and parade conducted by the police and military, the ZBC Radio Zimbabwe and PowerFM live-broadcast, livestock displays, amusement park, the official opening which is normally graced by the President and a visiting head of state. Giant fireworks displays make up one of the most sought after experience during the show week.
Music lovers are treated to an array of music and dance events with traditional dancers such as Gule, Ben Arinoti and a number of crowd-pulling popular artists filling up the Glamis Arena.
One of the biggest events that runs during the Agricultural Show is the Show Cup Clash which is the biggest annual Dancehall event where the youths fill up the giant City Sports Centre as Djs/MCs, Selectors, artists and sound systems take turns to showcase and compete for the ultimate King or Queen of the dancehall for the year. The event has changed hosts from year to year with Black Giant having hosted most of the 90s clashes before Chipaz, Chillspot and a collective of other promoters took over. Sadly the clash will not happen this year, maybe a phone call from Jah Master to the Almighty may change the fortunes before the year ends.
Owing to the pull factor around the Show Week a number of promoters and venues capitalise on this period especially the last Saturday to create events of sort to cater for different audiences and most of the events will be sold out with other venues running out of liquor and other other supplies. Transport operators, food sellers enjoy brisk business over the week.
Artists are the hardest hit by this year’s NO-SHOW and most may never recover from the impact of the pandemic despite a few online events that are happening since the outbreak.
It is hard to establish the amount of business generated during this week but certainly this is a multi-million dollar period and sadly most entrepreneurs will be counting their loses.
The optimistic ZAS has on its website advertised that the annual fiesta will still happen this year but this time from the 28 – 31 October 2020. Looking at the Coovid_19 situation and the recent reviews of the response measures by the government it is very unlikely that an event of such magnitude would be allowed to take place a very sad experience for the thousands who normally throng the venue, the farmers, businesses, artists and the civil society who each year look forward to the grand expo.
The Harare Agricultural Show is one of Zimbabwe’s most revered annual events. Corporates, entrepreneurs, youngsters and adults have for long been using this platform as an opportunity to interact with each other, to meet clients, to market their products as well as to refresh their minds in an environment where both business and recreation exist side by side in a colourful and activity packed week long procession.
The second biggest expo the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair which runs in Bulawayo also was a non event. The exhibition brings a new energy, color and vibe to the city of Kings and Queens every April. Soon after it ends Harare would host the grand annual Harare International Festival of the Arts [HIFA] which succumbed to economic pressure long before the Covid sneeze.
Another major annual event also hit by the pandemic despite its inconsistencies is the Harare International Carnival (HIC) which brings together people across the social, cultural and political divide creating an avenue to promote unity among Zimbabweans through celebrating our diversity, building bridges amongst our people and further strengthening our mutual relationships with friendly countries. Given the financial situation in Zimbabwe it is uncertain if the colourful event which normally happen in October was going to happen if Covid has not struck.
The Victoria Falls Marathon, Vic_Falls Carnival, Sanganai Travel Expo, The Color Run and several other festivals will gather dust this year [and some may never return] hoping next year the situation improves and Covid will be contained and the nation’s major festivals [expos] can return to breathe life into the economy and society. Until next time, the plot thickens.