By Stephen Spark
Zimbabwe | Saturday 8 July 2017: 9:09 BST
It’s being billed as the “3 Million Man Carnival” and “the biggest street party in southern Africa”. No one can criticise Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke for underselling Harare International Carnival 2017.The event is certainly popular – pictures show massive crowds lining the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital in 2015, though there is no independent confirmation that they reached the two million mark claimed by ZTA. Total economic impact of Zimbabwe’s 2015 carnival is claimed to have been $21 million. Last year, after much uncertainty, Harare International Carnival (HIC) was cancelled, and some observers doubted it would return, given the country’s fragile economic state. But at a press launch on 6 July, ZTA chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi announced that HIC is back and will be “much bigger and better”, with a new route, a new theme, a new sponsor and a new mission.The carnival itself is set for Saturday 9 September, following more than a week of music and cultural events starting on 1 September. The parade will now set off from the eastern side of the Central Business District and end at Robert Mugabe Square opposite Rainbow Towers, where the main music stage will be located. The theme will be ‘One Love – Our Unity, Our Pride’.For the first time, HIC will have a title sponsor: Big Time Strategic Group, one of South Africa’s most successful 100% black-owned and run companies. This follows the IT and media giant’s sponsorship of the 2016 Miss Tourism Zimbabwe beauty contest. For the next three years HIC will officially be known as the Big Time Harare International Carnival.Addressing criticism that expensive festivals of this kind often provide little long-term benefit to residents and businesses, ZTA has pledged that HIC 2017 will leave a positive legacy. Chidzidzi said that the plan is to transform rubbish-strewn, traffic-choked Robert Mugabe Road into a pleasanter environment, in particular by replacing street vendors’ ramshackle stalls with purpose-built units. In 2018 the carnival clean-up will move to First Street. However, the headline in local paper Newsday suggested that HIC’s big attraction was not so much clean streets as “The return of the samba girls!” The sexy Brazilian dancers sent the country into a frenzy in 2015 ordinary Zimbabweans cheered them madly while traditional chiefs and evangelical Christians fumed at the threat they posed to the nation’s morals.