Tourism minister Walter Mzembi
HARARE – As the conflict between Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke escalates, the ZTA boss said yesterday he is seeking legal opinion whether to refer their dispute to the courts.
This comes after Kaseke sparked censure from the minister after unilaterally attempting to rename the Harare International Carnival — funded by the State to the tune of $400 000 — Big Time Carnival, after securing a sponsor, South Africa-based Bigtime Strategic Group.
Mzembi has said the Harare International Carnival was a Cabinet-approved brand that cannot be changed unilaterally by Kaseke.
Mzembi has also raised alarm that ZTA has no sponsorship agreement or Board approval to engage Bigtime Strategic Group, which recently pulled the plug on a sponsorship package for Miss Tourism Zimbabwe — run by Mzembi’s wife Barbara.
Bigtime Strategic Group has instead moved its sponsorship to Miss Zimbabwe.
During a press conference in Bulawayo on Tuesday, Mzembi said the ZTA had overstepped its mandate by renaming the carnival after an unsanctioned sponsor.
ZTA spokesperson Sugar Chagonda told the Daily News on Wednesday that they had since reverted to the original name after pressure was brought to bear by the minister.
Kaseke told the Daily News yesterday that he was seeking legal opinion in the wake of relentless attacks from the minister.
“I have consulted my lawyers and I will give you a full response after they have given me guidance. I have sought legal counsel,” said Kaseke.
“I spoke to minister (Mzembi) on Friday and immediately told my team working on the carnival to do as the minister had said. The following day in the carnival launch statement read by Tourism deputy minister Anastancia Ndhlovu, we reverted to Harare International Carnival.
“So why is he publicly rubbishing his chief executive officer when he has done nothing wrong? I am doing my level best to make our government get the best out of the carnival.”
The ZTA boss said Mzembi’s outbursts had baffled him, alleging it was the minister who negotiated with Bigtime Strategic Group to sponsor the carnival.
“It was deputy minister Ndhlovu who phoned me advising me that they had found a sponsor…later on the minister told me that (Bigtime boss Justice) Maphosa had agreed to sponsor the carnival at the Rainbow Towers. He was in the company of Maphosa.
“We thanked the minister a lot because we had been battling to secure sponsorship for the carnival. I even joked that ZTA was now benefiting from the minister’s great friend because Maphosa also sponsored Miss Tourism Zimbabwe
“So what has suddenly gone wrong? We are surprised by the hullabaloo. We should actually be celebrating as ZTA and the Tourism ministry because have found such a committed sponsor and partner in these tough economic conditions,” Kaseke said.
While expressing gratitude to the Finance ministry for allocating $400 000 for the carnival, Kaseke was quick to point out that it fell far short of the annual event’s budget.
“That is why we should celebrate the coming on board of Bigtime because the company will spend not less than $800 000 which will go towards a public address system, a stage, paying five foreign artistes who will all be African, three local artistes , a VVIP tent among other things,” he said.
Kaseke added that a sponsorship agreement between ZTA and Bigtime which Mzembi has insisted on was ready for signing.