Harare carnival can't happen soon

HARARE - One of the biggest events in Zimbabwe — the Harare International Carnival — could not happen last year and rightly so because it could have been suicidal on the part of the organisers.

With the country on the edge and mass protests occurring at every turn, it was wise for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) to shelve any plans of staging the mega street jamboree in 2016.

This year also, given that it will be a  campaign year with protests most likely to occur as political parties and activists push for electoral reforms ahead of next year’s elections.

With others certainly pushing for President Robert Mugabe to quit, I have doubts that the event will take place at all.

Last year, the ZTA was diplomatic as it continuously postponed dates for the event until the year came to an end and you could not blame the tourism body for that.

While ZTA gave varying reasons for the continued postponement, including scarce resources, I am sure government security chiefs had advised them that it would be unwise for them to group so many innocent people together. It was akin to bringing unsuspecting people to the slaughter house.

In 2015, the ZTA staged the colourful event and it attracted an estimated 200 000 people who thronged the streets of Harare, shutting down all business as the streets were engulfed by people of all colour; the young and old.

The people who came out for the street party surprised many, including the organisers themselves and even security chiefs and politicians were caught unaware.

A record number of countries took part in the procession and even police details on duty were consumed by the sea of people that merrily enjoyed the fun-filled convergence. Food outlets ran out of beverages and the whole Central Business District was filled with human traffic.

And, thank God, the street parties went without any incidences but I do not think that could have been the same if that event took place last year — the year of mass protests.

It could have been suicidal and foolish on the part of ZTA if it dared stage the event last year as pressure groups and political activists could have taken advantage of the masses in attendance to voice their anger and hold impromptu protests which could by default capture all in attendance, hence cause untold mayhem.

What could have happened could be anyone’s guess.

ZTA should not be tempted to stage the Harare International Carnival this year. It would be wishful thinking on their part that this could be an incident-free event because people out there are hungry, angry and could grab the opportunity to show this.

Yes, the people might attend in their numbers but in the middle of the street parties they would vent their anger and loot or even engage in activities that endanger the life of innocent women and children. This is not the time to hold such happy events.

A carnival is a happy outing in which people from different backgrounds meet to just be merry, dance, sing and showcase their best cultural costumes. That time and mood is definitely not now.

The only time ZTA can attempt to bring this mega event back is probably next year, 2018 after the elections, and only if the aftermath is peaceful and conducive, otherwise it will have to be in 2019.

The Harare International Carnival is also made possible by nationals from other countries and holding it amid uncertainties and fear of protests will see most visitors snubbing the event which in itself will milk out the glitz.

I am glad though that the Victoria Falls Carnival did take place at the end of last year and went on smoothly with thousands of tourists and merrymakers converging at the tourist resort.

However, Victoria Falls is not Harare, and I hope ZTA will take this advice seriously lest they create chaos in the capital city.

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