MARGARET CHISANGA, Lusaka
IT’S difficult to pin-point the best part from this year’s Agricultural and Commercial Show performances.
Competing for the top slot is the callisthenics display by Zambia National Service (ZNS) and the sight of Alastair Sayer performing daring freestyle stunts on his motorbike across two steel ramps set metres apart. Sayer is a freestyle professional motor rider under the Unruly Behaviour FMX Bike Park from Johannesburg, South Africa.
I am not the only one undecided, as the fully packed arena registers the same screams of excitement at the two performances. The good part is that it’s not a competition, and the audience is treated to the best of each performance to their utmost satisfaction.
The ‘bang, bang, bang’ sounds from the servicemen’s guns send a toddler hiding into the mother’s bosom.
“Talala naiwe, ninfuti shabufi (stop crying, these are fake gunshots),” the mother says in a soothing tone to calm the young boy. What she doesn’t know is that her words have calmed two journalists (Chomba Musika and yours truly) who are almost cowering for cover
The ZNS perform in front of South African President Jacob Zuma, who is in the capital, Lusaka, on a working visit to officially open the 91st Agricultural and Commercial Show at the invitation of President Edgar Lungu. The two presidents are in the company of many dignitaries overlooking a fully packed main arena.
South Africa and Zambia share good bilateral relations underpinned by strong historical ties dating back from the years of the liberation struggle. Mr Zuma’s speech emphasises the need for the Southern African Development Community to diversify into best agricultural practices and share agricultural development tips. It’s a good message, but many are not here to listen to serious messages.
For many, the show saves as an annual family outing characterised by eating, drinking and merry-making. Spread out across the showgrounds, families lay out quilts and chitenges from which they leisurely munch on home-cooked meals and down beverages bought at discounted rates at the Zambia Bottlers stand. Rice and chicken seem to be a favourite dish for many.
Even companies displaying office work have set up braai stands at the tiny backyard area of the kiosks.
“Ndipo lelo tizadya nyama (indeed we shall eat meat today),” says a lady visiting a Daily Mail stand.
I make it a point to taste as many different flavours of grilled meat as possible.
For others, the show offers an opportunity to make a quick profit as the grounds are filled with thousands of people. Many entrepreneurs set up kiosks with all sorts of goodies ranging from shoes to toys and phones. The quickest money-earner seems to be face painting as the hawkers have coined a phrase that ensures every parent obliges.
“Pentesa mwana bazibe ati enze ku show (Have the child’s painted to prove he/she was brought to the show),” they scream, and the parents oblige, after all, they all want to be trendsetters.
The only disheartening thing is that most of the products displayed by small-scale entrepreneurs are ordered straight from the wholesale shops in Kamwala second-class trading area. But then I suppose only a seasoned fellow entrepreneur would take note. How else can one explain the fact that these products are selling like hot cakes?
To attract some of the show-goers to their stalls, most institutions have hired the services of artists who use music as a crowd-puller. Giveaway goodies such as T-shirts, key holders and water bottles are given out to stand visitors. The show-goers know this, and many get a thrill from collecting as many free products as possible. Established shops sell selected products at extreme discounts to lure clients into entering their shops and buying other products.
The first product to part with my money is an outrageously cheap wine going at K20 for a 750mls bottle. Maybe it’s the spirit of the moment, or the fact that I’m drawn in by the sight of a large number of people scrambling to have a free taste of the wine served on ice in a fancy-looking wineglass. But then, again, maybe I just love red wine.
Across the road from the wine stand is an MTN stand where two guys shake their youthful bodies to the Copperbelt-based 408 Empire’s Chilepule Baby in a bid to collect a prize, most likely a shirt.
I swear, if our youths could put as much effort into coming up with innovative development ideas as they do in winding and grinding their bodies for a free T-shirt or backpack, our leaders would be attending G-5 summits.
Bottle in hand and all protocal forgotten as dignitaries are en route to the airport, the sound of loud cheering sends me rushing back to the arena just in time to catch Alastair Sayer flying, on a motorbike, from one end of the high metal ramp to another.
His adrenaline charged stunts are exciting, exhilarating, daring and outright crazy.
“He is part of a Johannesburg-based team called Unruly Behaviour, who are here working with the Seven Seven sports entertainment, you can watch our stunts on Facebook anytime,” a team member says.
With the sounds of the ZNS blank gunshots still receding in my mind, I conclude that blaring gunshots and daring stunts are not for me. Mine is journalism, and so I will wait for the next show, to see the next spectacular thing, and tell you about it.