BY sheer coincidence, just as Milton Kamwendo got to a point in his speech when he dramatically declared: “Let there be light” Zesa switched on power to the
Montclair Hotel at Nyanga after an almost 18-hour outage, as the local motivational speaker addressed a dinner gathering of the prestigious Zimbabwe Council of Tourism.
It was a bit late in the day. ZCT had held its annual general meeting the night before in total darkness and all power to the tourist areas of Nyanga, Juliasdale, the Vumba and, indeed, most of Manicaland was then “off” from 4am the following day until 9:47pm that night when Kamwendo quoted the Biblical text.
Influential delegates to the talks from the worlds of travel and tourism were also plunged into darkness during breakfast the next day.
Many delegates (ZCT is an umbrella organisation representing the Association of Zimbabwean Travel Agents, the Board of Airline Representatives, Boat Owners’ Association of Zimbabw, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, Catering Employers’ Association, Incoming Tour Operators’ Association, Safari Operators’ Association [incorporating Professional Hunters’ and Guides’ Association] and the Zimbabwe Vehicle Renters’ Association) bemoaned the fact that Tourism minister Francis Nhema didn’t hang around to see how hotels struggled to cope with continual power outages or to “network” with major players other than briefly in the coffee break.
In fact the minister, who arrived an hour late throwing the morning session completely out of kilter, only really stayed long enough to deliver a monotonous speech (identical to one he made at the previous congress, I was told) slamming ZCT for under-selling itself and keeping too low a profile. Rather a non sequitur when delegates champed at the bit wanting to know about draconian price controls, shortages of food, drinks, service and utilities, fuel, the on-going pull-out of overseas airlines, foreign exchange rates and controls, wages and salaries policies, 2010, indigenisation, the brain drain (mainly to South Africa in preparation for 2010) and a myriad other subjects.
But if the minister’s tardiness caused chaos in the morning session, an apparent snub by Karikoga Kaseke, Zanu PF fund-raiser, crocodile farmer and CEO of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority — funded by a 2% turnover levy on the trading activities of most of the delegates present — devastated the afternoon and subsequent sessions.
Reportedly “tied-up” with squiring around the country a Caribbean crooner named Luciano — whose backing group had been refused transit visas through London from Jamaica to Harare — he was said to be “too busy” to attend the travel industry’s major policy-making annual event, or even to send a junior to make his speech (a report and overview of Zimbabwean tourism) for him.
Due to his non-attendance and a consequent yawning gap in the programme, all business scheduled for the Friday morning was completed by Thursday evening. Except for Kamwendo’s address, which was made after-dinner, instead of before-lunch the next day!
Bubbly Chipo Mtasa, who always shows a brave face on things no matter what challenges the tourism sector faces, was re-elected president of ZCT for another year. CEO of Rainbow Tourism Group, she was also named as 2007 Zimbabwe Tourism Personality of the Year.