The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) boss, Dr Karikoga Kaseke, has fired a salvo at local carnival critics arguing that the event is an unnecessary burden on the fiscus, describing them as ignorant.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail Society, Dr Kaseke said destination marketing events like Sanganai/Hlanganani and the Harare International Carnival kept Zimbabwe tourism afloat during its darkest moments.
“What is wrong with the carnival creating a platform for the economy to prosper? Is a happy nation not good for development; what about the social cohesion that is created by the events? ” queried Dr Kaseke.
“People that speak ill of the carnival certainly do not understand the role of Government. The State is not there to make profit at the expense of the public, it looks at the impact of its programmes to the economy at large.”
The fifth edition of the Carnival, dubbed “Mother of All Carnivals”, is set to be held from October 15th to 20th. Zimbabwe borrowed the carnival concept from countries such as Brazil, Seychelles, Jamaica and, Trinidad and Tobago.
In the said countries, carnivals are big business, earning the countries millions of dollars annually.
The carnival concept, which is well-funded by the respective governments, has also been instrumental in promoting peace, unity and tolerance in the countries.
“The idea is to create a conducive environment for business and make money,” said Dr Kaseke.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
Q: What is the benefit of the carnival? Some sections argue that it is a waste of tax payers’ money.
A: We are a Government agency, therefore whatever we do is done on behalf of our principal (State). We need to talk about the carnival in terms of gross national happiness. We need a happy nation, not bickering people. The carnival helps us to have unity of purpose. The country cannot prosper when people are always squabbling and using hate speech, that divides the nation. Why do people always seek to find fault even when it is not there? ZTA’s functions are for the benefit of the country. When people are happy, the whole nation benefits. We need to do our part in stimulating gross national happiness and the carnival is one such platform. Countries like Dubai actually have a minister of happiness because they understand the importance of the matter.
Q: Concerns have also been raised over ZTA’s hosting of foreign groups during the carnival. Can you shed light on this?
A: We invite everybody in the region to come for the carnival and those free attend at their own expense. But when we look at a country like Brazil, they come to add some value to our carnival, thus we have to meet their expenses. This year we are meeting the expense of the Ghana King of Ashanti who we have invited. He is coming with his Ashanti people and it’s a huge group of around 100 people but we can’t bring them all. Normally, when you invite the group you have to charter a plane for them. They were invited in Nigeria and they got a chartered plane, the same thing happened when they were invited to Mauritius and Seychelles. In our case, we cannot do that hence we are only going to buy air tickets for 20 members of the group. The Ashanti King is very rich in terms of the kingdom, heritage and history, hence we want them to spice up our carnival. We will meet all their costs. The United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago, Italy, etcetera are coming for the carnival at their own expense.
Q: Are you happy with what you have achieved with the carnival thus far?
A: We are not yet at a stage where we are happy with the carnival contribution in terms of celebrating our diversity but in terms of economic contribution, it is slowly getting there. Over $30 million went into the economy during last year’s carnival. This is not much but a good starting point. We need to get to a stage were we realise over $100 million through the carnival.