18 July 2008

Zimbabwe: International Book Fair Called Off

Harare — THIS year's edition of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair has been called off amid revelations that the traditional sponsors of the annual book event had withdrawn their financial support for the hosting of the fete.

The book fair was supposed to have been held from July 31 to August 2.

ZIBF's acting director Greenfield Chilongo said the organisers reached the decision last week after wide consultation with various stakeholders, publishers, authors and booksellers.

He said while they had agreed that the development could spell a bleak moment for the local literary scene, Chilongo however maintained that the move was the wisest decision to be made under such circumstances.

Chilongo also cited the country's hyperinflationary environment as another major cause that led to the cancellation of this year's event.

"We reached a general consensus to call off this year's book fair after realising that the economic environment was not favourable for the hosting of the event.

"The costs of manning stands, transport, among others and the perceived participation by the public led to the conclusion that we would not get bigger audiences and hence we decided to postpone it to next year," he said.

He also added: "We lost funding from our traditional donors and that is why the burden of holding the fair fell squarely on stakeholders' shoulders.

"It's the first time that we have failed, and postponing it to next year was not an easy decision but still we had to do it to avoid other catastrophes.

"We think our customers are also facing a lot of challenges in society, we are not blaming anybody."

He said the move had also not largely affected them as organisers alone but its ripple effects had also spilled over to authors who had lost an opportunity to market their books and launch new publications.

"The general exhibitor has also lost another opportunity to interface with new people, new technology, new buyers and general information to the public. This is a very painful moment for us," he said.

Chilongo however said all was not lost since the Indaba, traditionally held at the Monomotapa Crowne Plaza, would go ahead this year.

The two-day Indaba, to be held between 28-9 July, would be held under the theme: "Promoting Tolerance and Dialogue through Literature."

"There is also a young people's Indaba during which they would be discussing issues revolving around the same theme but from a young people's standpoint.

"Youths are still in the idealistic world where everything is possible which is what we want in society. It is through new things that the proper transformation comes about," he said.

Chilongo said among the speakers only Stephen Chifunyise had confirmed his participation.

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