On entering Harare Exhibition Park, visitors — especially those of foreign extraction — are left without a trace of doubt that they have stepped on African soil.
A new feature facing the main entrance, which is part and parcel of the extensive facelift that the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society (ZAS) has embarked on, shows an artificial waterfall on rocks with women doing their laundry while birds drink some water.
ZAS spokesperson, Sibonginkosi Muteyiwa, says the water feature — done by Nature’s Way Landscaping — is unapologetically African. “The waterfall represents our national culture and heritage,” she said.
She added that they were also working towards upgrading the premises into a modern garden, with an abundance of palm trees and flowers.
ZAS has since made strides to ensure that there is effective utilisation of Exhibition Park, known mainly for the annual Harare Agricultural Show, throughout the year.
The premises are now operating as a one-stop shop, with people able to pay their electricity bills and do their banking, among other things, with no hassles or queues.
Companies with operational offices at the Exhibition Park include TN Bank, Zesa, Zimoco, Psmas and Zimpost. Customers of these companies, Muteyiwa said, could easily do their business away from the madding crowds in the CBD.
All the halls at the Exhibition Park, mainly used for church meetings and conferences hosting as well as board meetings for some top companies, are all undergoing re-flooring and are having new doors, which are modern and more convenient, placed.
She said Exhibition Park had become the place of choice for meetings and every weekend, all their halls are fully booked, either by churches or people holding weddings. “By 2011, we would have renovated all the halls,” she said. “Every hall will have its own upmarket bathroom and ablution facilities.”
The ablution facilities used in the past were located away from the halls, she said, adding that they were also planning to have air conditioners in all the halls.
Among the halls undergoing renovations, including a new coat of paint, is the 4 000-seater East End Hall.
Muteyiwa said beginning this year, they were now hosting different kinds of expos, in a development that has already seen more major functions such as Zimpolocrosse, Sanganai, Taste of Zimbabwe, ICT Expo and the recently ended Econet Expo.
As the festive season draws near, they have also come up with a package to suit the time with Christmas Fayre, when they will have Christmas carols by candlelight on December 11. This will be held between 10am and 8:30pm.
“Since the end of the annual agricultural show in August, we have been busy,” Muteyiwa said. “We have had a number of church conferences, which are also a major feature here.”
She added that their affordable prices were a major attraction and they are booked until April 2011.
She said all the stands, which belong to the ZAS, had affordable monthly rentals. They charge $10 per square metre, but office space costs between $3-4 per square metre. Companies that already have stands at Exhibition Park, however, are charged special rates, which are lower and they are also free to sub-let the stands to other potential exhibitors.
“As part of our social responsibility programme, we allow charitable organisations for every during every show at the Andy Millar Hall,” she said. “We also prepare Christmas goodies for orphans. Tanyaradzwa Children’s Home in Murehwa exhibited during the show this year.”
The rebranding of the Exhibition Park comes as a welcome relief, with the facility having suffered significant wear and tear over the years.
But the new turn of events have given it a new lease of life, and turned it into an upmarket business venue rather than just show grounds that only come to life in August as people attend the Harare Agricultural Show, now in its 100th year of existence.