President Robert Mugabe and his Malawian counterpart, Joyce Banda temporarily brought the city of Bulawayo to a near standstill with hundreds of residents
jostling to get a glimpse of their motorcade on its way to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).
Report by Musa Dube
The deafening sound of the long motorcade, accompanied by the presidential guards and the police, could be heard kilometres away, and as usual it was allowed unimpeded passage through the crumbling streets of Bulawayo.
However, while hundreds lined the streets to watch the spectacle, some kept their distance fearing the confusion caused by the wailing motorcade could result in accidents, as has happened in Harare recently.
Buzzing in the skies were the air force helicopters, a tale sign that the presidium was indeed in town.
The week long ZITF event, was not only attended by the two heads of state, but by the country’s vice-president Joice Mujuru, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputies, cabinet ministers, diplomats, business leaders and many of the Who is Who in Zimbabwe. The visitors blatantly revealed the affluence gap between the visibly well-off government officials and poor residents from the city of Bulawayo.
Throughout the week, Bulawayo was a hive of activity as the big spending delegates, many of them from Harare, brought a new lease of life in the usually sleepy city.
The government officials made some residents green with envy as they drove in their luxurious cars, ranging from the latest Mercedes Benz, Jaguars, Jeep, Range Rovers and Land Rovers, to Prados and Land Cruisers, in a city where 80% of the population is not formally employed.
The usually quiet Bulawayo’s Central Business district was almost impassable due to a sudden traffic jam from increased traffic volumes associated with the ZITF. Delegates left residents scratching their heads as they flashed around cash in the pubs and clubs dotted around the city.
Many residents of Bulawayo are currently struggling to make ends meet after the companies that used to sustain their lives, collapsed. A research done by the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) last year, revealed that de-industrialisation of Bulawayo has resulted in poverty levels in the city becoming higher than those in other urban centres in the country.
As the ZITF curtain came down yesterday, the city started becoming hollow as the hundreds of delegates started trooping back to their respective places.
Enterprising Residents Recorded Business
The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair brought a lot business to local entrepreneurs, with hotels and lodges fully booked.
“The ZITF has brought good business and our hotels are fully booked,” said a manager of a local hotel.
Some enterprising city surburbs in the affluent suburb of Mahatshula, Burnside and Hillside were letting out their homes to visitors for the week-long event.
“I have rented out some of my rooms for the ZITF delegates and I have charged US$1 500 for the whole week,” said the enterprising Sheila Moyo from Hillside.
Taxi drivers were kept busy the whole week, as they carried delegates to various destinations.
Not to be outdone were prostitutes who also made brisk business by trading their bodies to sex starved delegates.
ZITF chairman Bekithemba Nkomo commended Bulawayo residents for accommodating the visitors.
“I would like to thank the Bulawayo residents for the hospitality that they have shown to our visitors,” said Nkomo.