Kaseke’s tourism legacy
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. The noble Brutus hath told you that Caesar was ambitious; if it were so it was a grievous fault and grievously hath Caesar answered it.”
It is a Shakespearean quote from Mark Anthony’s oration at the funeral of Julius Caesar. The orator was bringing to the fore how men do not remember the good, but only the bad that someone does. The memory of the good deeds is fleeting in stark contrast with the bad which lives much longer and is often discussed everywhere.
In reminding the mourners, most who hated Caesar, where Rome riches came from, Mark Anthony says, “He hath brought many captives home to Rome, whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.”
This week, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) board announced that they had retired their long-serving chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke, due to ill health.
In a statement, the acting board chairperson Dr Precious Sibiya said Kaseke’s retirement followed the recommendations of the medical board.
“Dr Kaseke served the organization from June 2005 up until his retirement. The board and indeed everyone had hoped for his recovery and we continue to pray for the restoration of his health. Dr KK, as he was affectionately known as, will be sadly missed in the ZTA in particular, and the tourism industry as a whole both locally and beyond our board,” the statement said.
16-years is a long time by whatever measure on one organization; what legacy does Kaseke leave at ZTA?
This writer has covered numerous ZTA functions, press conferences and press receptions and this is his take.
According to the world data atlas, Kaseke’s arrival coincided with the lowest decrease of tourists in Zimbabwe since 2 000 when the Robert Mugabe government launched the controversial Land Reform program, which it said was meant to correct historical imbalances.
The figures had steadily declined from about 2.2 million in 2003 to 1.75 million in 2005, a debility of about 450 000 arrivals.
The country hit its all-time high in 2018 of 2.580.000 when Kaseke fell sick. How did he achieve that, from the lowest upon assuming the reins to the highest when he fell sick?
He used cut-throat method in stamping his authority in the tourism industry. He fought bitter wars with leaders of industry, some very nasty, particularly with Shingi Munyeza and Emmanuel Fundira. There was no love lost between them and he sought to make them aware that it was the government that regulates the industry, not the players.
In the end, they seemed to acknowledge that they need each other, particularly after Walter Mzembi became the minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
Not only did he fight the industry to stamp his authority, the workers at the ZTA knew they had a no-nonsense boss and he would not countenance insubordination and incompetence.
Ask any worker at 55 Samora Machel Avenue and he would testify to that. Kaseke would lead from the front, sleeping less than four hours a day towards big events like Sanganai/Hlanganani and the Harare carnival.
But then they loved him because he would fight for them and protected them. When Mzembi wanted to retrench ZTA staff, Kaseke stood resolutely in defense of them.
When I asked him if he was going to retrench some of his staff as the minister had said in the press, his answer was characteristic: “What does Mzembi know about ZTA? No one is going to be retrenched here?”
And true to his word, no one was retrenched until he fell sick.
When he became the CEO of ZTA, Kaseke carried the baggage of being called “controversial” by the media, but when he left that tag had vanished. What happened?
Kaseke realized that the media was a powerful tool in marketing the country and in perception building and he sought to be friendly with it.
Kaseke would never refuse to offer an interview to any newspaper and the Public Relations Department was instructed to be pleasant to the media.
The staff there, from Sugar Chagonda, who is the former boss to the present Godfrey Koti is a marvel to work with.
The ZTA would throw lavish media cocktail parties where Kaseke would informally mix and mingle with the journalists and get their views.
Well, there is so much to write about Kaseke whose Chimurenga name Banga Museve, but like his board said, we wish him well.