Fanuel Kangondo Deputy Lifestyle Editor
Harare women were this week presented with a rare opportunity to show off their fancy and fabulous hats and outfits when Harare Mayoress Fran Manyenyeni hosted a High Tea function at an exclusive event that drew the elite ladies of the sunshine city.
Under the auspices of the Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Fund, the elegantly dressed women met at Pabani Lodge in Umwinsdale where visiting American philanthropist and World Bank staffer Dr Melanie Walker was the inspirational guest speaker.
It was a grouping of the well-heeled ladies in the social, corporate and political spheres as they seemed to battle to outdo each other not only in their exquisite rides, outfits and more distinctively their purses as they joined forces to raise money for charity.
But the focus was on the hats. Unlike the legendary annual Royal Ascot Races where the hat competition is for the bizarre and unexpected, this affair was for ladies vying to be the most fabulous turned out from head to toe.
The biggest winner at the end of the day was the Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Fund as a substantial amount found its way into the kitty as the women went crazy bidding for such offerings as tea with the Mayor of Harare, a round of golf with the Mayor, artworks, designer dresses and holiday escapes. Scenes at the event were reminiscent of the Durban July in South Africa where socialites battle to outdo each other in some of the most unimaginable outfits.
Not to be outdone were such ageless socialites as Kiki Divaris who at 90 remains ravishing and was exquisitely turned as usual. Marketing executive Chipo Mashingaidze who was the compere, was equal to the task and made the event enjoyable with her interaction.
High tea is a social event with British origins ideally for the upper classes where afternoon tea is served as a bridging meal after lunch in anticipation of a later dinner and comes with various accompaniments including fruit juices and at times wine. Some establishments in Harare serve high tea in various forms to suit their clients and are often known for indulgence in an assortment of offerings.
A number of exclusive city restaurants were offering bouquets of eats as the women went around sampling the sweet and savoury accompaniments they laid out to make the afternoon enjoyable in addition to the entertainment offered by Chisipite Senior Girls, Chipawo, Harare Children’s Home and the inimitable Tariro Ne Gitare.
Dr Walker, a trained medical doctor, author, management and development expert once served on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was instrumental in a low cost housing project that she recently commissioned in Dzivarasekwa. She is now serving as a special advisor to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.
Dr Walker has been actively involved in the micro finance housing initiative in Dzivarasekwa for the past six years and was hopeful that the model would be used in other parts of the country with the intervention of other well wishers apart from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Over the years, I have been able to see the challenges and opportunities that lie here and I have seen this from the perspective not only as an outsider but from here as well. I’m very hopeful and optimistic that the young generation will be able to take it up and become advocates for the development of Harare in all areas from health, housing and many other needs. It is possible,” she said.
Harare Mayor Ben Manyenyeni was one of the few men who intruded on the all-female affair and his presence almost went unnoticed serve for a few Kodak moments with some of the ladies, with the Mayoress by his side of course. Although it could not be established how much was raised at the high tea, there is no doubt that the purse got more than adequate cushioning as the organizers were still finalizing the numbers.