ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) has been forced to move this year’s edition of the annual Harare International Carnival, which had been set for July 17 to 21, to the first week of October, as it has been scheduled too close to the general polls set for July 30.

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

Although the cultural jamboree had become a major highlight on the arts, culture and tourism calendar — attracting delegates from all over the world, the initial run-up to this year’s edition had been low key.

ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said after consultation with the Tourism and Hospitality ministry, they had seen it fit to postpone the carnival to the first week of October.

“This year’s carnival is going ahead. We had agreed with the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality [Prisca Mupfumira] to host it on September 19, but there is a big gathering for Youth in Tourism in Bulawayo and we have to be there,” Kaseke said.

“The week that follows it will be Tourism week, we are wanted in Victoria Falls by the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism. They have a special event that our minister (Mupfumira) must attend as guest of honour.

“So we have decided that the carnival be held in the first week of October.”

Mupfumira echoed similar sentiments, saying: “My ministry, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and our commercial partners have seen it fit to postpone the carnival. We recognise the importance preaching peace, joy and happiness during this election period.”

There had been fears that the initial dates of the mega event, which had been reduced to five days from the traditional 10 and was set to run under the theme Celebrating Hopes and Aspirations of a New Zimbabwe, could also be used as a Zanu PF election campaign platform.

“The dates were ill-informed, ill-advised and ill-timed, as it does not make any sense to host such a major annual event in the midst of electioneering and campaigning,” arts promoter Plot Mhako said.

“There was no reason to rush it, as that will not give any meaningful benefit, especially towards tourism as intended.”

The euphoria usually associated with the run-up to the event, which drew many stakeholders including the highly-popular Samba dancers from Brazil, has been conspicuously absent.

The week-long annual fiesta encompasses a series of events and festivities aimed at advancing the country’s arts, culture and heritage.