Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi says the media should prioritise developmental issues and stop concentrating on political fights that tarnish the image of the country and the tourism sector.
He said this in an interview after addressing the 29th Joint Staff College Course students in Harare on Monday.
Minister Mzembi said while politics was newsworthy, it was not the only subject.
He expressed concern that national daily papers were involving themselves more in politics to the extent of acting like party tabloids and this was destroying tourism as Zimbabwe was being portrayed as a nation in conflict.
“Today we have found that the media have been the lead for deconstructing or debranding Zimbabwe through the news items that they publish. We have different types of news in our midst, which is not only political.
“We hope the media could be democratic to the extent of also covering developmental issues and other accomplishments that are taking place in other sub-sectors.
“Politics is just a sub-sector of the totality of actions and narratives that are taking place in our midst. I hope that one day we can see together all of us stakeholders and speak to the national interest of how we want as a nation to be understood out there,” he said.
Minister Mzembi said it was worrying that while Zanu-PF had its own paper, The Voice and other parties had their own papers, national papers were abandoning national issues for politics.
“Why don’t we allow those papers to cover party issues so the national dailies escalate issues of national interests expected by Zimbabweans.
“Cabinet, Politburo and Central Committee gatherings are platforms where ministers and senior party members express themselves over their disagreements or agreements, but to have national dailies communicating issues that have a bona fide, legitimate platforms within the context of party constitutions is actually disturbing.
“This is really hitting at tourism because of the perceived conflict. When you come on the ground you do not see it. But what we are merchandising to the international world is that we are a destination in conflict. Tourism and conflict do not core- exist. Tourism cannot market conflict. We market the beauty of the country, the accomplishments, is people, we market branding of our achievements as a nation,” he said.
He said it was selfish for the media to ignore other developmental issues and concentrate on politics.
“If papers are doing to satisfy their corporate pockets at the expense of national interest, then it means we have to review what national interest is and maybe take them on board so that they understand the damage they are doing to tourism,” he said.
Minister Mzembi told the students that peace was vital in the tourism sector.
“Terrorism has emerged as a pervasive phenomena in various parts of the world. Terrorist assault on peace hurts not only international and domestic tourism but damages centres of culture and contemporary human life styles.
“Your role as the military in maintaining peace is therefore vital. We are very fortunate that there is widespread peace in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa at the moment. A peace that unfortunately some of us in Zimbabwe are beginning to take for granted,” he said.
Minister Mzembi said Government should promote tourism enablers to boost the sector and improve the economy.
Enablers such as transport, information and communication technology visa regime and security were highlighted as some of the important areas that required to be addressed to boost the sector.