AFTER withdrawing from the much-hyped World Cultural Festival (WCF), that began in the Indian capital New Delhi yesterday, President Robert Mugabe’s government is now making frantic efforts to bring festival to Harare”, NewsDay Weekender can reveal.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi yesterday compared the event, snubbed by Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee, to the prestigious World Economic Forum and revealed government was now working on a plan to stage it in Zimbabwe.
“A Head of State being invited to speak to nearly four million people anywhere in the world is a great honour, especially the opportunity to bring the next edition home. That really to me was the issue. But Zimbabweans are in the political business of besmirching their own, also because we do a mess in packaging information for media and public consumption,” he said.
“The attendant debate on the President or his team’s indiscretion or lack of due diligence on the trip is uninformed, perhaps narrow and cheap political scoring.
“We were in the market for it (festival). In fact, as I speak to you, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke is on his way to New Delhi to pursue discussions. I had opened discussions with the organisers to host the 2018 /19 edition. We are still looking at it, notwithstanding all this.”
Mugabe has received brickbats from analysts and opposition parties for wasting State funds on an unnecessary jaunt.
But it has been revealed Mugabe may have sold the nation an elaborate ruse on the festival, as it could have been a decoy for a trip to Singapore for medical reasons.
It has since emerged that Mugabe, instead, flew straight to Singapore.
The 92-year-old Zanu PF leader cancelled his attendance at the festival, citing “substantial inadequacies in protocol and security arrangements around the event”, but has remained in Asia for as yet to be disclosed reasons.
Mzembi claimed he had hoped Mugabe’s attendance would help the Zimbabwean leader take more interest in the Harare International Carnival.
“His (Mugabe) judgment on the Indian trip was on point, bar the last-minute hitches which were internal to India. In tourism, we had actually hoped his attendance of WCF would heighten his and government interest in the Harare International Carnival,” he said.
However, Mzembi seemed to admit that the WCF was more relevant to ministers than Heads of State.
“The World Cultural Festival is not mickey-mouse business. It’s an event attended by 3,5 million people. Running parallel to it, and under its auspices, is a Global Leadership Forum, mainly at ministerial and captains of business level. Very prestigious, just like World Economic Forum,” he said, adding he had also been scheduled to attend as a panellist on one of the discussions tomorrow.
“Just as a matter of fact, if you look at the official programme, which is public information now, you will see that I was participating in a panel on Sunday, alongside Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, and five other Indian ministers.”
However, Mzembi, like Mugabe, has since skipped the festival, saying: “I have dispatched Kaseke there. I am a board member of the Berlin-based Institute of Cultural Diplomacy, so I have meetings, to attend today ”.
A check on the WCF website does not list Mzembi as one of the speakers and neither is Branson.