Is Zimbabwe Tourism Authority sincere?

Mtandazo Dube Unplugged
This is not the first time that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), the organisers of the carnival, have thrown big celebrities’ names around for their various programmes. Their Celebrity Host Programme saw the ZTA move from acceptable dreams and wishes to outright absurdity in their quest to bring top artistes and celebrities to the country.

Therefore, one would be forgiven for thinking that the ZTA sometimes rushes to announce their desires, which sometimes are simply unattainable to the nation instead of waiting for their programmes to become solid.

And with just under five weeks before the carnival roars into life, all talk of R Kelly has died a natural death and so has that of Chris Brown who had been touted as R Kelly’s replacement as the biggest act at the carnival.

Could this be a repeat of last year’s carnival, where there were no stars? After announcing that Jamaican superstar Luciano was making a grand return to Zimbabwe last year, the ZTA then threw in another name, Tarrus Riley, but none of them made the trip to Harare.

Even the Brazilian samba dancers that had also been billed to perform at a “no Under-18” event were a no show — leaving locals to do all the work.

Not that there is anything wrong with our local artistes, but it is wrong to give someone madora/amacimbi when you had promised them cake or vice versa.

So last week, Unplugged tracked down the spokesperson for the ZTA, Sugar Chagonda, to find out if this year’s carnival will be different from last year’s, especially in light of the promises that have already been made.

“We are a serious organisation, one that represents Zimbabwe and wants only the best for the people of this country,” said Chagonda as he dismissed insinuations that the tourism authority allowed itself to be involved in a lot of “bar talk”.

“Our agents did communicate with R Kelly and while they were still discussing payments with the artiste we were approached by a sponsor who indicated that they have the money but were only interested in bringing in Chris Brown.

“We had serious debates here (at ZTA) amongst ourselves as to who is a bigger brand and who is more appealing to the carnival audience.
“At the end of the day, the committee agreed that Chris Brown was the ‘man’ and we began negotiations,” said Chagonda.

The ZTA spokesperson was quick to point out that “everyone knows” what is going on right now with Chris Brown, “his arrests and all”.
“Even though we were reading it in the papers and watching it on television, we still received communication of his legal troubles and why it had become impossible for him to come in for the carnival.

“That is something that is beyond our control.
“And that is the same thing that happened last year and many other occasions where top artistes and celebrities that we would have wanted to bring in failed to come,” explained Chagonda.

Chagonda said that the tourism authority was still courting several other artistes in the region and internationally.
“We want to do something that’s best for the people and for the country, and for that we are still working hard to secure an artiste that will close the show.”

Chagonda said that people needed to remember that there are a lot of promises that have been fulfilled by the ZTA.
“Together with the late Prince Tendai we brought in Akon and Sean Paul. We brought in Nigerian celebrities, American singer Joe Thomas and several other artistes and investors under our different programmes.

“As the ZTA we know and the people know that all our plans come to fruition —we deliver.
“Where the ZTA is involved people know that it is serious business and that is why we have so many corporates taking part in the events we organise and that is why we will be having 23 countries taking part at this year’s carnival,” said Chagonda.

The Harare International Carnival, which is running under the theme: “Celebrating Our Diversity”, kicks off in the capital on May 16 and ends on May 25.

‘A star will be there’

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke, on Thursday night shed light on the inability by his organisation to bring in top American artistes they had earmarked for this year’s Harare International Carnival. Speaking on the sidelines of the Carnival Media Launch at Longcheng Plaza in the capital, the ZTA boss revealed how Chris Brown’s arrest had thrown into turmoil plans for a “huge carnival music concert” this year.

“We had found a sponsor, Coca-Cola, not our local Coca-Cola but the international one. They had indicated that they would bring in Chris Brown for the festival and we had agreed on terms and everything, but when he got arrested everything fell away,” said Kaseke.

He explained that when they asked Coca-Cola to extend the same package of sponsorship to any other artiste, the bottling company indicated that they have a group of artistes that they could bring and Chris Brown had been the one that was available.

“Before we engaged Chris Brown we had been in talks with R Kelly but as soon as Coca-Cola stepped in we abandoned those negotiations,” he said.

However, Kaseke said there was no need to despair as his organisation was going to do everything in its power to ensure that they land someone with an international appeal.

“There are many places to look for an artiste that might have the impact we are looking for. It can be someone from Africa, say, maybe Nigeria or the Caribbean Islands,” he said.

During the media launch, Kaseke introduced an advance party from Trinidad and Tobago, which is in the country to assess the suitability of Zimbabwe to host such a fete and to make plans for the arrival of the rest of their contingent.

Twenty three countries are expected to take part at this year’s carnival, whose highlights include the Street Party, Miss Carnival, Zim dancehall concert, Samba Night and the Exotic Night.

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