The Board of Directors of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority wishes to advise the tourism industry and all stakeholders that Dr. Karikoga Kaseke has been retired from the post of Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority after a long period of indisposition. Dr. Kaseke fell ill in November 2018 and has not been well since then. His retirement followed the recommendations of a medical Board and is effective 01 July 2021. Dr. Kaseke served the organization as its Chief Executive 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 is affectionately known, will be sadly missed in the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in particular and the tourism industry as a whole both locally and beyond our borders. Allow me on behalf of the Board to thank the Kaseke family, industry, and all our stakeholders for the support and cooperation given both to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and Dr. KK during these past two years. We would like to kindly request you to continue with your support and cooperation as we recruit a new Chief Executive for the organization.
Dr. Precious Sibiya
Acting Board Chairperson
Brief interview Yedu Lani had with DR. Kaseke
Here is one man who is forthright with and has executed his duties with a great passion, he is none other than Dr. Karikoga Kaseke, the Chief Executive Officer of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
Dr. KK, as he is commonly referred to by many in the tourism sector, has over a decade of experience in the tourism sector. His experience includes elements of the entire tourism system such as tourism planning, research, policy, business operations, product development, market access, training, and marketing/promotion. Kaseke has experience working with tourism businesses, governments, destinations, parks, and tourism associations in various countries; helping these partners build their role in the tourism system and connect markets to the destination.
Briefly tell us about yourself
I was born some 56 years ago at Harare hospital to Catherine Kaseke nee Chihota Dube, wanyemba vanjenje which is what they are called. I am the firstborn in a family of eight. I grew up in rural Mhondoro where I did my primary and partly secondary education form and left for the armed struggle in 1972. Narrates.
Your educational Background
It’s not like I sent myself to school but was fortunate as I was sent by the army to school from form 2, I have seconded to the Army education call up to form six in 1986. The Army was paying for my tuition at ZEDCO a college owned by Dr. Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
I did not do well at ‘A’ level I managed to score 7 points but at that time it was considered as a high mark. The score was high enough for me to qualify for my first degree at the University of Zimbabwe, doing Political Science and Public Administration, and passed well. I earned myself a book price for being the best student in that stream.
After I enrolled myself for my Masters in Tourism and Hospitality Management at the same University. However, soon after my course work was done, I was called to Singapore when I was doing my dissertation, this time it was for Masters in Transportation Systems and Management which I did and passed extremely well and I came back to finish my MBA.
Including your MBA…?
These are my major qualifications in my life, however, all my degrees were sponsored by the government starting with the army and then the government except for the MBA. No wonder I committed myself to work in the government.
And Your Professional Qualifications
Perseverance as they say pays. I was awarded a Doctorate from the Commonwealth University and this even surprised me. I was the CEO for the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) a post which I left after being appointed permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport.
I was the CEO of CAAZ and I think I did well and the then government said I must be Permanent Secretary. I became Perm Sec in the Ministry of Transport where I worked well with Mr. Mushowe (Christopher) where we became close friends as we did Masters in Public Administration together. I believe he had a hand in my appointment as perm sec, though he did not tell me. (Laughs)
When Minister Jokonya (Tichaona) left as ZTA CEO, then-President Robert Mugabe thought there should be a person who should take ZTA in a new direction. He called me and discussed how they wanted me to strategically stir the authority. In all these positions from pursuing my studies to the appointments in government I was seconded and I am glad about all these.
On your passion for Tourism?
The various portfolios I held made me passionate about the industry because I was already indirectly involved in the sector.
When you are in aviation you are basically working for tourism indirectly and when working for transport as a permanent secretary you are already working for tourism. These were relevant experiences. Remember I had done Masters in Tourism and I found it easy when I was seconded to be ZTA CEO. I have become so passionate about the industry and it’s now over 13years, which some have said I have overstayed. However, with my current board, we have agreed for a short term.
I don’t want to be seen as running away from the board and the minister. If it was the case, earlier this year was offered a job in the Middle East as a CEO of an airline. Remember I am more of an aviator than tourism.
He has been at the helm of ZTA for the past 13 years and says he has managed to vitalize the organization.
“It’s been 13 years in the industry. When I came with specific instruction to change the strategic direction of the ZTA had a specific task as the ZTA CEO And I did everything that was supposed to be done, like taking stock of the strategic issues that were affecting ZTA, and had to come up with a strategic plan which I did.
“When I came here there was one director who behaved as if he was aboard chairperson, she did so because she thought she was connected, but I had to cut her and dismiss her. I do not tolerate insubordination” said Dr. Kaseke
Despite the successful journey Dr. Kaseke says he faced challenges when he came to ZTA because the organization had no funds.
“As I said, the biggest challenge, like anyone in this position, funding is the issue. ZTA is a creation of an act of Parliament, which is supposed to be funded by the state. When I came to ZTA the state was not funding it at all. I highlighted to the then minister of finance how other regional tourism boards are being funded and illustrated to him the return on investment by the regional sectors.
ZTA should be funded by the government. I really appreciate the extent the government has assisted ZTA as much over the years has been having a financial pinch. Running ZTA is like a car whereby the funding is the steering wheel. That’s the biggest challenge.
One other challenge is that the general populace of Zimbabwe did not know the activities of ZTA and the benefits of Tourism to the nation. It is a challenge even up to now to concertize the nation. When I was appointed as CEO, I went on a two-year spree to educate the nation on the benefits of tourism.
Fortunately, I am happy the president, the VP then at that time, supervised the tourism sector and we had meetings with him and I believe was converted in understanding the benefits of tourism and contribution to the fiscus.
What do you think needs to be done to improve Zimbabwe as a destination?
There are competitive forces that each country must look at. We must not cheat ourselves and think that anyone who ends up in Zimbabwe had no choices. No! There are choices. We have to convince them that when you chose to travel to Africa, chose the best.
When they visit the Southern African region have to position Zimbabwe as the best destination. We need to convince them through our offerings.
There are competitive issues, for example, the visa issue. We still maintain visas for our major source markets, whereas our competitors have already scrapped visas. Botswana has scrapped the Visa on all of its major source markets, as well as South Africa, same said for Namibia. But we still maintain Visa on these major source markets. We must not impose Visa on our major source markets.
We must also have a two-tier charging system. Domestic must be charged differently as compared to international ones to enjoy their attractions, heritage, and offerings.
On the national airline…
When you do not have a strong airline your tourism cannot be as good as one that has a strong airline. Look at South African Airways (SAA) it is very strong and the results are there for everyone to see, look how South Africa is performing as a destination. Kenya as well, Rwanda’s Tourism is improving and is on the rise very fast, due to RwandaAir among other factors. The national carrier is a symbol of that country’s capacity. It is a mirror that you can use for people to look at you.
A strong national carrier is the magnet of other airlines attracting them to its nation. It has a magnetic effect, without a strong airline will not attract competition, they go where other airlines are going. The only thing a government must not do is to protect its national carrier against the competition. It must allow competition to freely flow, it must compete with other airlines coming into the country.
What is your interest outside the office?
I am a very passionate learner no wonder I read a lot to renew myself even If you look at my table, reading each day more than 2 hours without exception as long I am in the country. If I’m to travel I carry my books.
I am very much into literature. However, I consume work-related literature, especially on strategy. I get the latest books and I do not have much of social life. To tell the truth I have been to Club Sankayi and Pablos on work-related issues when I had some people who wanted to be hosted by me.
Would you encourage your children to emulate you?
Any good father who has children does not want them to emulate him, but they must surpass what he has done. The good things I have done they must do much far much better than me. They must achieve for themselves.
Your best destination in Zimbabwe?
I have a deep affection for the Eastern destination of Zimbabwe. I admire very much the Eastern Highlands, it’s pristine, attractive, and beautiful all year round, especially now with the new packages offerings such as the Skywalk and the Zip-line. Did you know I was the first person to Skywalk and if there was something wrong with it, it had to happen to me? The place has to be promoted more.