There is growing frustration over the unwillingness to co-operate between the former privileged few in the regions and the majority now black-run municipalities and regions.
Namibia’s total trade exhibitions are now reaching 20 countrywide and efforts to develop them from towns into regional exhibitions have been met with stiff resistance.
Trade exhibitions are some of Namibia’s most valuable development platforms with a diverse range of audience where product and market testing is rife.
Of late, the Ongwediva and Okakarara trade fairs have provided opportunities for exhibitors to branch out into business-to-business trading and created a growing customer database.
However, much of the country’s regions have been affected by lack of inclusiveness.
Speaking at the Keetmanshoop Show Society last week, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Hage Geingob noted how communal farmers have been left out; “Avoid apartheid development. The show should be a win-win situation, not only to benefit some people...”
In Omaheke, Governor Laura McLeod-Katjurua told The Villager she had failed to gain support from the majority of those who were privileged before independence.
The Omaheke Trade Fair was initially billed as a unification platform for all trade and agricultural shows in the region, until some white commercial farmers opted to stage the Agricultural and Industrial Show on the same dates in the eastern town.
“We have too many trade fairs in the region and I brought up the idea of one event that is inclusive of everybody. That request did not go down well with some of the colleagues who want to do things on their own.
“As a result, we are in an awkward situation where the Omaheke Regional Trade Fair will run concurrently with the Gobabis Show Society’s Agricultural and Industrial Show between the 21st and 26th of September,” she said.
The head of marketing of the organising committee of the Omaheke Trade Fair, Levy Katire said this is dividing the region as most white people who are part of the old agricultural show plan to ignore the Trade Fair, which will be at Legare Stadium.
Already, the region’s capital (Gobabis) has few bigger buildings that can accommodate a show facility.
The new idea of a regional trade fair had to be moved from the Show Grounds, which are owned by the Gobabis Show Society to the stadium after the owners told the regional council that they now wanted to use their venue on the same weekend.
“Since the main organiser of the agricultural show is a white man, it is obvious that most of the white commercial farmers will choose to go there whereas the black commercial famers may choose the Omaheke Trade Fair although we have sent invitations to people of all races within the region,” said Katire.
According to Katire, the Office of the Governor planned this event with the Gobabis Show Society but “they decided to withdraw (apparently) because the organisational structure of the trade fair has been slow in doing what they should do, so they deliberately set their event on the same day as the ones we have set.”
Prominent livestock auctioneer, Floris van Niekerk, who withdrew from the Omaheke Trade Fair and will host the annual Gobabis Agricultural and Industrial Show said that most of the people who will participate in this year’s trade fair have never participated at the agricultural show and will not be affected.
“I have no problem with the committee of the trade fair and I am not of the idea of white and black farmers showcasing their products separately. We are all Namibians; that is it,” said Van Niekerk, who failed to appreciate that the new exhibitors from the trade fair are mainly blacks who rarely have a shot at the Agricultural and Industrial Show.
Van Niekerk, however, revealed that the Ministry of Trade and Industry had sent a letter to the Omaheke Trade Fair to postpone their event to 2013 until they would be financially sound but the Governor’s office refused.
“We all bought into the idea but the planning became very slow last month as there was nothing in place; no cash, only the sponsors and a lot of fruitless meetings. When I realised there was only six weeks left, I withdrew because I could not afford to put the show at risk since we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary next year and we need to raise funds,” said Van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk concluded that he knows that more whites support the agricultural show but he has no hard feelings against the Omaheke Trade Fair organising committee and hopes that they will host their events together next year.
Governor McLeod-Katjirua remains optimistic that the region should be able to stage a successful trade fair this year and court the others next year.
However, the same cannot be said about the City of Windhoek that staged a coup by the organisers of Hart van Windhoek this past weekend.
The City’s /Ae /Gams Festival was one of the low key events in recent years characterised by poor marketing and a competing event also billed to promote Windhoek.
While /Ae /Gams seeks to promote Windhoek’s cultural boom and diversity; Hart van Windhoek is meant to be a celebration of the capital’s existence but the later barely has marks of the City expect for a lot of borrowed concepts from South Africa.
MTC’s chief human capital and corporate affairs officer, Tim Ekandjo, in his capacity as the head of the Namibia Annual Music Awards (NAMAs) blasted Hart van Windhoek for being too South African.
“The Namibian music industry has positively made good strides over the past few years and we have begun to see good quality music with many local artists winning local and international awards.
“This should tell you something about the quality of our music, however, it remains unclear why such a big music festival like the Hart van Windhoek with such a proudly Namibian name would fly in over 30 South African artists and bluntly ignore our own Namibian artists in a show staged in Namibia,” Ekandjo said.
According to Ekandjo, the Hart van Windhoek’s clear reluctance to make use of Namibian artists is totally unacceptable and it is something that should not be tolerated as it would most certainly not be tolerated in South Africa.
His efforts were also supported by award winning artist, The Dogg, who said in most cases, “the local guys who are asked to perform are paid peanuts if not nothing.”
According to Ekandjo, most of the local artists heavily rely on live shows to make a living as CD sales have taken a nose dive due to various external factors and denying them an opportunity to showcase their talent while earning the much needed income at functions like Hart van Windhoek, is thwarting development.
“The fact that only three local artists feature on the programme while there are 30 South African artists is a disgrace. The organisers should not use three Namibian artists to window dress their event because our artists deserve better than that,” Ekandjo remarked.
Karas Regional Governor, Clinton Swartbooi says the Keetmanshoop Agricultural and Industrial Show has become regionally inclusive since the town council became part of it, last year.
“I am satisfied with the current levels of inclusiveness but every day is work in progress. For the first time we have a Vice President who is from the previously disadvantaged communities. For the first time in its 57-year history, the Keetmans Show has begun growing in attendance tremendously. This year alone, we saw a 90% growth in exhibitors, profits shot up by 200% and overall attendance shot up by 430%. We even had to turn away close to 10 exhibitors because of space,” he said.
The Keetmanshoop Show has been redefined by the partnership between the Show Society that used to run it privately and the involvement of the regional council.
He added, “We have become a key stakeholder and this year alone, we raised close to half a million for the Show and we are growing. Gate fee collection on day one of the Show increased by more than 70% and it is now marketing the region to its fullest, it is not a Keetmanshoop Show but a Karas Region Show because of its dimension.”
Dr Hage Geingob summed up the growing different approaches to development arguing that, “No Namibian should be left out of development. You cannot be rich and happy, while your neighbour is hungry. Such a situation will haunt us one day if we allow it to happen. Partnerships should thus not only be between the rich but should also take the poor by the hand.”