ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke has dismissed his public censure by Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi as the actions of a bitter man.
This comes after Dr Mzembi publicly criticised Kaseke over Big Time Strategic Group’s sponsorship of the Harare International Carnival. In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail Society last Friday, Kaseke said Dr Mzembi and Big Time Strategic Group CEO Justice Maphosa’s fight was personal and had nothing to do with him or the carnival.
“The minister is bitter. He is fighting with Maphosa over the withdrawal of the sponsor from Miss Tourism, which is run by the minister’s wife. I don’t want to be a part of that fight. I’m not one of their friends. “I respect Minister Mzembi as my minister but that is where it ends; we do not have a personal relationship. I also respect Maphosa as our sponsor and that is also where that relationship ends. The minister should not involve me in their personal fights,” said Kaseke.
Kaseke claimed Maphosa was also angry over what Dr Mzembi is alleged to have said about Big Time Strategic Group and Maphosa himself. “I have not done anything wrong to the minister. Where do I come in in all this? The reasons for this quarrel are between the minister and Maphosa. Maphosa is also bitter about what the minister is alleged to have said about Maphosa and his companies.”
We are in possession of a copy of an email written by Maphosa to Barbara Mzembi – wife of the minister – withdrawing his sponsorship of Miss Tourism. Barbara is the Miss Tourism patron.
Reads part of the email: “Till today, I have not heard any email apologising for that unfortunate incident. The minister (your husband) said a lot of things in full view of the audience that was there at the party on the night these things happened. “This left the Miss Tourism brand in shambles, needless to say what damage was done to me personally and to my companies. I am no longer comfortable doing this pageant at all. I write this letter to inform you that I am cancelling my support for the pageant and pulling out my sponsorship completely. I don’t see how this animosity and anger towards me or my companies can help the girl child or enhance the brands.”
Efforts to get a comment from Maphosa over the fallout were fruitless but his local representatives have confirmed that their boss terminated his relationship with Miss Tourism. Dr Mzembi was not answering his cellphone, and had not responded to questions sent via SMS, at the time of printing The Sunday Mail Society on Friday night.
The ZTA chief executive also said he failed to see where he overstepped his mandate as said by the minister. Dr Mzembi has been quoted criticising Kaseke for “unilaterally” giving carnival naming rights to Big Time Strategic Group. The minister reversed the ZTA decision to rename the Harare International Carnival the Big Time Harare International Carnival.
“I have never given sponsorship above my limit, which is US$50 000, and I have never sought board approval for sponsorship coming to us. I know corporate governance and adhere to it. “We rebranded Sanganai and even this carnival, which we had named Zimbabwe International Carnival before we entered into a partnership with the Harare City Council. Hotels, tour operators and other companies sponsor us — we have never sought board approval, we only inform them. So what has changed now?” queried Kaseke.
Dr Mzembi said Government had fully funded the Harare International Carnival to the tune of US$400 000 and the State “cannot subordinate its interests to that of a sponsor”. The minister gave the example of the private funding of Command Agriculture by Sakunda Holdings, asking “should the programme therefore be named after Sakunda?”
But Kaseke said the US$400 000 provided by Government, while greatly appreciated, did not cover a third of the carnival bill. “We need US$1,5 million for the carnival. Last year Government gave us US$150 000. We appreciate that but we struggled to cover the rest and are still paying debts as we speak, using our own resources.
“Of the US$400 000 that has been allocated to us, US$100 000 will go towards servicing some of those obligations and the remainder towards the carnival itself. This money is not even a third of our requirements. “Our initial agreement with Government was that they sponsor us while we grow this carnival. What we are doing, seeking sponsorship, is within our mandate. We do not want the Ministry of Finance (and Economic Development) to continue funding us indefinitely. It is our plan to be self-sufficient in seven years.
“The minister is failing to differentiate sponsorship and a loan. Sakunda is not sponsoring Command Agriculture that is purely business, it is a loan, which will be repaid. But if someone gives you in excess of US$800 000, surely they deserve title rights because they get their repayment through brand association.”
Kaseke insisted the ZTA would not drop the sponsor’s name from the carnival. “According to Section 5 of the Tourism Act, which stipulates the functions of the authority, I have done nothing wrong. Even the contract that the minister is saying we do not have — it was actually the sponsor who requested for a contract, not us.
“We are signing a three-year deal worth millions of dollars. Surely how can we deny someone pouring such large amounts of money title rights? The sponsor understands that the carnival is growing and thus is eager to protect his interests so that in future we do not have problems when other companies and individuals or even countries decide to come on board.”
Kaseke said it was Dr Mzembi who had brought Big Time Strategic Group to the ZTA, and Maphosa had confirmed to him that the sponsor would not abandon carnival sponsorship. The ZTA chief said the sponsorship involved a 40mx80m stage and a marquee that could accommodate 5 000 VVIPs and VIPs.
The sponsor will pay three top local acts, three South African acts and two continental acts to perform. The sponsor wants to spruce up Robert Mugabe Road, which is part of the route of the carnival parade; provide tower lights at Robert Mugabe Square; and offer stage lighting and a state-of-the-art PA System among other things. In light of the public spat between the minister and his parastatal head, what is the state of their relationship?
Said Kaseke: “I’m his subordinate. I’ll continue to do work as prescribed by the (Tourism) Act. The minister knows that I have been a pillar of strength to him and nothing will change. Whatever problems are there, I hope they will evaporate. “However, I’m concerned that the minister does adhere to a simple management rule where as a manager you have to criticise your subordinates in private and praise them publicly.”
This is not the first public fallout between Dr Mzembi and Kaseke. In 2011, they fell out over a model, Lungile Mathe, who was stripped of her title and prizes after she got the Miss Personality award at Miss Tourism Zimbabwe.
More recently, Dr Mzembi publicly derided Kaseke over an announcement that there would be no Sanganai/Hlanganani Travel Expo or the Harare International Carnival in 2017 due to a shortage of funds.
The HIC, which set to take place from September 1 to September 10 has been dubbed, “Three-million man carnival” by the organisers. Kaseke says preparations for the vent are at an advanced stage and progressing smoothly.
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