As news filtered that the nation’s foreign minister, Walter Mzembi was holed up in the Cuban embassy in Harare; his wife Barbara being from that island, the withdrawing of the Miss Tourism Zimbabwe licence from his wife Barbara has opened Pandora’s box. And with it a whole cache of secrets previously shrouded under a thin veil of uneasy diplomacy has been shred open.
And while the minister is holed up in search of breathing space, ZTA boss, the feisty Karikoga Kaseke has blown Cuban cigar smoke into the hole threatening to choke the fugitive minister, as he alleges graft as being one of the reasons why the licence was revoked.
“Mzembi’s wife flouted the terms of the agreement, one of whose terms was to mobilise resources for the event and make sure the corporate world got involved and made the event successful outside of government; which was the reason why we licence it out,” said Kaseke.
Instead, Barbara, whose winning of the licence was believed to be heavily due to the hand that Walter Mzembi played when he was tourism minister, went to government and got US$80 000 for the event which was due to be held on December 9 this year. As a result the event hangs in limbo after the revocation of the licence.
With his own hands, Kaseke personally stripped Barbra Mzembi, that Cuban beauty pageant lass of the licence for the event which is highly anticipated. Stark-naked of that licence, she can no longer discharge her duties. The event no longer is hers.
Add to that, Kaseke alleges it was improper that government could be arm-twisted into giving such a whopping amount to a minister’s wife when other government programmes were being shelved owing to a lack of funding. But this revocation also brought to light a whole lot of dirt. And ugliness. And filth.
“If I were to meet the President (Cde ED Mnangagwa) I would ask him to nip this in the bud where minister’s wives are seen addressing ministry staff and chairing meetings; with ministers making ministries look like personal fiefdoms,” he told The Saturday Herald in an exclusive steaming off session.
Yet there is background to the steam. This year Zimbabwe Tourism Authority staff have failed to go for the largest meeting of tourism players in the east, in China, the world’s largest tourism market, as they could not be afforded the $50,000 they needed to attend the showcase. Kaseke admitted that was part of his anger.
“It is a big market and we failed to market ourselves there. The fact that the Mzembi’s themselves admitted that they got such a great amount of money from government for what should in essence be a private event for which they ought to have fundraised boggles the mind and it is not fair. People should not get preferential corrupt privileges because they know people in power. It is something the new dispensation should do away with,” he said.
While Mzembi was known to always revel in the limelight, prancing around and twirling whenever Zimbabwe got international accolades presumably for performing well in the tourism sector, Kaseke said that was the sad showboating of a ‘loner’.
“There is a leader then there is a loner. Mzembi was a loner. Anyone who seeks approval for everything and wants to be feted at every turn is a loner. People should work and not seek praise or want to cajole it out of his or her subordinates,” he said.
And for the first time we can reveal the REAL issue behind the further souring of relations between Mzembi and Kaseke. While it is common knowledge that the ‘carnival war’ was because sponsor (Big Time Strategic Group Boss) Justice Maphosa had pulled out of sponsoring Barbara’s event and kept on sponsoring the Harare International Carnival, with Kaseke digging in that he would continue eating the fruit of Maphosa to fund his carnival regardless, it is the backroom wars that may raise eyebrows. The beauty pageant had taken political shades;
“People went to the then First Lady Grace Mugabe and said Maphosa was funding regime change and yet we were going to negotiate with ZTA staff for funding for our carnival. Obviously when Maphosa heard that he was being implicated in political battles he was incensed and so he ought to have been. I wonder why people believed that man and it made working for the arts and for the country tough for all of us.”
So big a tattle tale was Mzembi that he even implored the Chief Secretary to fire his feisty head of parastatal.
“He wanted me fired. If I had done wrong he ought to have approached the board but because he had no leg to stand on he wanted to twist the Chief Secretary’s hand. He is a prudent man the CS for having ignored calls to heed him and keep me in my employ.”
But challenged whether the whole idea to pull the rug from underneath the embattled Mzembi’s hooves at a time that he is fighting for political relevance and is down, Kaseke insists it is a fair attempt at retaining the integrity of the pageant.
“Not at all. We want to give the licence to someone with integrity who will take this thing forward without jeopardising the brand of disturbing the flow. They flouted our rules and we have been forced to cancel. My hand has been forced.”
Mzembi has thrown everything the way of Kaseke. From Zodwa Wabantu’s underwear, or lack thereof at the height of the carnival with Anne Nhira as the lead pawn in the war, right down to the name change of the Harare International Carnival to Big Time in honour of the main sponsor; anything and everything went. With a diamond spine that couldn’t be broken, Kaseke escaped unscathed and miraculously so.
“It is difficult to respect a man who thought he was god’s gift to the world and thought he was the best thing ever to happen to Zimbabwe. We all have something to contribute and we should use our talents for the greater good and not manipulate others or do things to benefit ourselves in unprocedural means.”
“What happened was criminal and they (the Mzembi’s) should never have gotten money from the treasury and we hope that money is returned as well as anything ill-gotten in the name of the pageant he said.”
Kaseke has in previous times refused to officially comment on the real issue behind his tiff with Mzembi. Now, exposing that he had been labelled a regime change agent and enemy of his government, it has become all to evident what really caused the longest and most brutal battle to be fought on the entertainment and arts landscape crossing the borders of government work.
Mzembi, under a Havana flag, could not be reached for comment neither could his wife who no longer holds the beauty pageant licence. And as they prance around together, outside the embassy grounds and far beyond, Kaseke is yet again giving away the licence.
“Anyone who is competent and has the resources is free to come and apply for it. The show must go on,” he says.
For a beauty pageant, the hope is this is the last of anything ugly from what should be a feast of beauty, sensuality and splendour. – Herald