By Stephen Spark
United Kingdom | Tuesday 5 September 2017: 10:10 BST
It’s still only a few years old, but in terms of attendance Zimbabwe’s Harare International Carnival (HIC) has become one of the biggest in Africa. This year the theme is ‘One Love: Our Unity, Our Pride’.In a statement on 4 September, tourism minister Walter Mzembi explained why Zimbabwe has put so much effort into the event: “Government believes in the power of the carnival, particularly its potential to generate much-needed revenue for the country.” He emphasised that the government is treating it as a long-term investment: “We are optimistic it will yield return on investment in the next five to 10 years.”HIC started on Friday 1 September with block parties in the city and continued on Saturday with a Carnival Cultural Show and Costume Parade at Longcheng Plaza. Zimbabweans seem mesmerised by Latinas in skimpy outfits, so tickets for Wednesday’s Samba Night at the Private Lounge probably sold out a while ago. This year the show has the added excitement of a dance-off between the Brazilians and their highly fancied rivals from Cuba feathers will fly! (Brazilians may take samba as their own, but they shouldn’t be complacent. At Seychelles Carnival a couple of years ago a group from São Paulo was soundly outdanced by some of London’s very own sambistas.)Music fans will probably be just as keen to catch Congolese singer Werrason at Friday’s Rhumba Night at Cresta Oasis, where fans can also catch Diamond Musica, BV Labien Musica and Lady Storm. Despite his last show in Zimbabwe being panned by critics, Beenie Man from Jamaica remains hugely popular in the country and will be the big draw at the Zim Dancehall Fiesta in Harare Gardens on Friday night.Carnival on Saturday through the streets of Harare will be the grand climax, of course, and expected to attract more than a million revellers. From 8am to 6pm they’ll be watching dozens of local groups – 39 schools, the armed forces, 15 traditional groups and 15 more ‘contemporary’ groups, 19 colleges and universities, plus a clutch of sponsored/corporate groups. Don’t underestimate the local mas bands: Zimbabweans have adopted the carnival spirit with enthusiasm and have proved they can make eye-catching costumes. Finally, there are 17 overseas delegations from other African countries and farther afield, including Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and the UK. The masquerade processes along Simon Muzenda Street (Fourth Street), Jason Moyo Street, Rotten Row and Robert Mugabe Way before ending at the Civic Grounds (aka Robert Mugabe Square). Main organiser Zimbabwe Tourism Authority wraps it all up with an epic music concert in the Civic Grounds that starts at 6pm on Saturday and doesn’t end until midday on Sunday. Artistes appearing include Werrason, Jah Prayzah, Winky D and Sulumani Chimbetu, among a great many others.