ZIBFA Chairman’s statement Country on Focus Gazebo fire
We regret to inform the book industry in Zimbabwe and all our stakeholders and partners abroad about the fire that destroyed the iconic ZIBF Country of Focus Gazebo at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair grounds and the immediate vicinity in the early hours of Saturday morning of 29 May 2021.
We want to thank the City of Harare Fire Brigade for their quick response once they were informed. They managed to put out the fire. But being a timber and thatch building, the speed at which the fire moved means that the structure was burnt beyond repair.
At this point, the cause of the fire and other details are not yet known. We await feedback from the municipal authority fire team and the police who attended the scene.
As the book industry, this blow comes after a long period of subsequent trials. The sector has been reeling under the impact of piracy. Covid-19 shutdowns derailed the 2020 ZIBF and we had no traditional face to event in the Harare gardens. This left our hearts bleeding.
However, we are glad to announce that some partners have already stepped in to assist us with rebuilding the gazebo and the vicinity. You may want to know that the ZIBFA Executive board and the General Council were already seized with redoing all our structures and the vicinity as a matter of urgency.
With the support of our partners, we are looking forward to a whole new look which will maintain our strong cultural background and natural look while incorporating high safety standards against man-made and natural disasters.
We are still in the process of engaging other partners and all Zimbabweans and people abroad are welcome to lend a hand. We are much encouraged by the positive response we have received so far.
We will be announcing specifics of these exciting development over the next few weeks in due course.
The destroyed gazebo is where the iconic Chinua Achebe alongside Luis Bernardo Honwana of Mozambique and others showcased their literary oeuvre and addressed the media during their joint first visit to Zimbabwe. That spot had become a destination for book connoisseurs from across the world with books being displayed and briskly sold both on the ground and first floor. This has also been the venue for the Hifa Poetry Café for sometime, now.
ZIBF has profiled Zimbabwe internationally on an annual basis, through the international exhibitions that have been running for more than thirty years since its inception in 1983. We are therefore calling upon all stakeholders to help in retaining and safeguarding this longstanding legacy.
Since then, ZIBF has annually exhibited Book Fairs in the Harare Gardens, a central venue in the Capital City, also conveniently located within reach of the CBD and hotels that host international delegates and stakeholders that annually come for the Fairs. Closely tied up with the presence of ZIBF Offices in Harare Gardens and the peaceful environment, is the twin aspect of both domestic and international tourism that Zimbabweans will seriously consider in preserving the present site and purpose of Harare Gardens as a strategic venue for Critical National Projects such as ZIBF.
Situated next to the ZIBF is the National Art Gallery which also houses the national treasure trove of artworks, specifically stone-art or sculptor. Both these spaces promote, preserve and disseminate local cultures while marketing and promoting the same to the regional and international communities. These two functions add value to the importance of the Harare Gardens to the populace.
ZIBF values your continued support and would appreciate your views or further inputs to this.
Our theme for Zibfa 2021 is still; Book Industry: the dynamics within is receiving positive responses for the traditional July-August event. Having observed that most of the themes from 2011 to 2016 addressed developmental and philosophical issues, the board decided to select a theme that may give us a rare opportunity to look more closely at the internal welfare and goings on of real people and institutions (big and small) in the book industry itself in Zimbabwe and Africa. We want to dwell on the work relations between our writers and publishers, printers, booksellers and librarians, readers for example. We are convinced that a very introspective gaze at both the open and behind the scenes of the book sector may be exciting and enriching.
Enacted in the early days of the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence, this gazebo and its vicinity were used each year by a country that we chose to focus for showcasing their books and other cultural materials. Nigeria, Iran, Ghana and others were once stationed in that spot.
I thank you.
Chairperson of the Executive Board of the ZIBFA