Zim tourism authority curiously moves carnival to election period

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By Nkosana Dlamini

THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has curiously moved the annual Harare carnival from its traditional September calendar to within two weeks of next month’s elections.

The development has sparked suspicions the organisers are keen on taping into the joys that come with the lucrative annual fiesta in case an unfavourable electoral outcome finds them out of office.

ZTA announced last week the popular Harare International Festival will be held from July 17 to 21, the time the country’s electoral period would have turned even more volatile.

During the period preceding the elections, government business would be virtually minimal as office bearers toil to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.

The country’s tourism authority is led by CEO Karikoga Kaseke, a known Zanu PF loyalist.

Observers feel this could be a strategy by the Zanu PF led administration to clog opposition stronghold Harare with a giant event while diverting attention from any political campaigning.

The ZTA has said its carnival concert and street party attracted about 1.5 million people last year.

The often week-long multi-national cultural extravaganza also comes with its own spoils as it is a brisk cheque-book season that finds organisers moving loads of money to book accommodation, transport and other logistics for guests.

Asked what the rationale was of hosting a high profile event only a few days before elections, ZTA’s head of corporate affairs, Chief Koti, chose to skip the question but concentrated on denying claims the carnival was traditionally staged in September.

“The carnival does not have any fixed dates at all. From inception it has been held in different months,” he said, adding that the first edition of the annual showcase was held in the month of May, with the latter editions held twice in the month of October while the fourth (last year) was in September.

Koti referred to Kaseke, who said he was surprised the revision of dates would elicit any thoughts linked to a possible attempt by organisers to profit from its proceeds before elections lead to a change of faces in influential offices.

Kaseke said nothing more, telling this reporter he was going to call him back, but he failed to do so.

An attempt to follow up yielded no results as his mobile was no longer reachable.