THE cash-strapped Gwanda Town Council failed to exhibit at the just-ended 2014 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) after its lease was terminated over an outstanding debt of $4 507.
Gwanda mayor Knowledge Ndlovu, who ironically was booked at a Bulawayo hotel for the duration of the ZITF together with outgoing town clerk Gilbert Mlilo, spoke strongly about the “embarrassing” incident on Wednesday.
Gwanda councillors were also bussed to Bulawayo for the opening ceremony and received allowances despite the municipality failing to exhibit at the premier trade show.
The Gwanda municipality stand remained empty for the duration of the five-day fair.
However, it could not be immediately established why council had decided to spend so much money to transport and book its officials in hotels when it had failed to exhibit.
Some councillors blamed management for the embarrassing gaffe saying it was surprising that they had failed to pay the debt when the municipality’s top five managers earned more than $60 000 a month.
Ndlovu was reportedly unaware that his council was not exhibiting until he got to the ZITF only to find the Gwanda municipality stand shut.
Ndlovu warned against a repeat of the incident at a full council meeting on Wednesday, particularly after the local authority had indicated that it would prioritise luring investors into the underdeveloped town in its 2014 budget.
“The trade fair is a national event, which should be taken seriously,” he said.
“Besides, we have said we want to attract investors and if we don’t attend such events it means we are not serious.
“It was embarrassing to us as people kept on asking why our stand was closed.”
Acting director of finance, Mtshado Dube, said ZITF had terminated the lease agreement after Gwanda failed to pay the outstanding balance.
Dube said there were chances of the lease being renewed if council cleared the debt so it could exhibit at next year’s edition. The council has over the years exhibited at the ZITF and scooped several prizes for excellence.
The municipality’s failure to showcase at this year’s edition of the ZITF comes at a time it finds itself in a financial quagmire that has seen it failing to pay workers for three months.