2603-2-1-CARNIVALTHE annual Harare International Carnival run by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority will not be held this year due to lack of funding, The Sunday Mail Leisure has learnt.

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A mountain of debt going back two years when the carnival was launched meant the US$500 000 budget for Carnival 2015 is a tall order.

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In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail Leisure, ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke conceded that things were not going according to plan.

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“Clear indications are that the carnival can only be hosted with proper funding of which we do not have,” said Kaseke, adding “We do not have funding and judging from the experience that we have had in the past it will be difficult to organise the event. In fact, without funding I’m sure there will be no carnival this year.”

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According to the ZTA boss, Government has provided a third of the money promised in each of the two years the carnival has been held.

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“Government has been funding the carnival for the past two years, but not to our satisfaction. In the past we have received only a third of the funds that we usually request for. For instance, this year we had a budget of US$500 000 and made a request for US$300 000. However, only US$100 000 was advanced to us,” explained Kaseke.

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The ZTA previously said the carnival, traditionally held in May, would this year be moved to September. And now it will not be staged at all, echoing the manner in which the ZTA also had to let go of the Miss Zimbabwe pageant.

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The two editions of the Harare International Carnival returned red books for the ZTA.

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Last year, it was reported that the 10-day event cost the ZTA close to US$900 000; with Government availing just US$50 000 of the US$200 000 it had promised.

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A huge chunk of the funds from Treasury were used to host visitors, covering their accommodation and meals but not airfares.

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Observers, however, question why a ZTA with limited resources wants to host visitors when the whole idea of a carnival is for international guests to bring money to the country.

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Conversely, the critics also say the carnival need not have run for 10 days last year and should have stuck to the four of the inaugural event.

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After all, the world’s most famous carnival — Rio Carnival in Brazil — is a five-day fest.

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Kaseke said ZTA was working hard to clear last year’s debts, nonetheless.

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“We are almost through clearing the debts. And in that regard I would like to thank industry for chipping in, in a big way. Organisations like Meikles and Africa Sun have helped us a lot,” said Kaseke.

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Zimbabwe borrowed the carnival concept from countries like Brazil, the Seychelles, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, where these events are big business, earning them millions of dollars annually.

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In Brazil, the Rio Carnival has promoted local cultures. An estimated 500 000 foreign visitors attended the 2014 Rio Carnival.

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However, in countries where carnivals have been a raging success, it is the private sector — and not governments or state-related entitities — that have driven the events.

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Perhaps the ZTA is failing to run carnivals because it is simply not structured to run them.

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Spurred by earlier successes in showbiz, the ZTA was probably tempted to think it had the Midas touch when it ventured into carnivals, a concept that genuinely excited Zimbabweans.

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After all, it was the ZTA that brought musicians like Luciano, Awilo Longomba and Koffi Olomide to the country.

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But last year efforts to bring R Kelly, Chris Brown (as cover for R Kelly) and Tarrus Railey to Harare failed.

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Carnival 2014 featured local dancers and bands, Brazilian samba dancers, and groups from Trinidad and Tobago, Malawi, Kenya, Egypt, Namibia, Ethiopia and South Africa, among other countries.

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But now the music has died.