Omaheke Trade and Agriculture shows remain divided

11 Mar 2015 14:10pm
GOBABIS, 11 MAR (NAMPA) - Efforts to unify the Omaheke Region's annual trade and agricultural events appear to have crumbled, as parties involved failed to reach common understanding on certain strategic and operational issues.
A meeting called by regional governor Festus Ueitele last Wednesday to settle the differences between the two entities hosting the trade and agriculture events failed to break the deadlock.
Gobabis has been hosting the Omaheke Trade Fair and the Gobabis Agriculture Show - two events which draw a lot of similarities but which are hosted differently.
Critics here believe such events are hosted along racial lines - with most of the region's black population opting to support the trade fair, while the whites settle for the Gobabis Agriculture Show.
The Gobabis Agriculture Show is hosted by the Gobabis Show Society (GSS), while the Omaheke Trade Fair is coordinated by Ueitele's office.
Also, the events are hosted on the same dates in September, making it difficult for businesses and customers to support both events.
Various stakeholders, including prominent livestock auctioneer and one of the organisers of the Gobabis Agriculture Show, Floris van Niekerk; Omaheke Trade Fair representatives and sponsors from mainly banking institutions attended last week's meeting.
Although Ueitele made it clear that his office is now ready to wean off the Omaheke Trade Fair and allow other entities to stage the annual event, no one has come to the fore.
Suggestions during the meeting that the two events be merged as one and most probably be renamed, draw criticism from both sides as neither of the two parties wanted to lose its domain.
The hesitation to merge appeared to be along linguistic lines, as the GSS argued that their event was an agriculture show and not a trade fair.
“We have no problem merging, but we are not a trade fair. We do not sell stuff at our event, with the exception of one or two stalls of barbecued meat and snacks. Our focus is strictly on agriculture exhibition and showings,” he said.
Organisers of the Omaheke Trade Fair, amongst them its chairperson Pijoo Nganate, said although a merger of the two entities is the most feasible solution to the stalemate, such a move would mean shutting the door on hundreds of small meat vendors (okapana sellers) and hawkers who make up the bulk of the trade fair's business activities.
“The understanding I got from the GSS from the beginning was that your people can come with your cattle but not the meat, as such meat does not have the standard 'blue stamp' certification. It’s a tough one for us; we need these people around too,” he said.
The Omaheke Trade fair was originally billed as a unification platform for all trade fairs and agricultural shows in the region.
The GSS originally agreed to join the initiative but pulled out at the 11th hour in 2012, moments before the staging of the maiden Omaheke Trade Fair.
The GSS cited irreconcilable differences, the apparent slow pace of progress on the side of the Omaheke Trade Fair, and a lack of funds to drive the initiative as grounds for its withdrawal.
It also emerged that many of the white commercial farmers in the region did not buy into the idea of the trade fair, but rather preferred the annual agricultural show hosted by the GSS, which they have been participating in since its inception close to 50 years ago.
Most farmers’ cooperatives and farmers' unions however chose to support the Omaheke Trade Fair.
A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for later this month, at which the possibility of merging the two events will be further probed.
The next meeting will also determine if a new host for the Omaheke Trade Fair will emerge.