Farirai Machivenyika Herald Reporter
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Walter Mzembi has said the United Nations (UN) system needs urgent reform, starting with its agencies following a decision by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to rescind its appointment last week of President Mugabe as goodwill ambassador in the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Africa.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus rescinded his decision yesterday, bowing to sustained pressure from Western countries, the main funders of the UN agencies.
“I am personally a victim of the goings-on in the UN system. You cannot reform it at the top unless you start with its building blocks or pillars, the UN Agencies, bottom up and my own experiences at the UNWTO are in themselves a global case study on the need for reform,” Minister Mzembi said.
Dr Mzembi lost in his bid to be UNWTO secretary general in controversial circumstances earlier this year when he was still Minister for Tourism. This was despite his sterling performance in helping Zimbabwe co-host the UNWTO general assembly in 2013.
Dr Mzembi said President Mugabe remained committed to the fight against NCDs despite the machinations of the West which has maintained a ruinous sanctions regime on Zimbabwe for nearly two decades for redistributing its land to poor blacks.
“The inordinate noise around the designation of the President (Mugabe) as WHO, AFRICA Global Ambassador for Africa does not assist the cause in the first place. If anything, it is WHO that has benefited tremendously from its decision in nominating President Mugabe to lead the fight against NCDs through media amplification of WHO itself, and curiosity by the general public on what really are NCDs, by tagging the name Mugabe to the debate. On a name recognition scale, this name beats them all but it is our business to protect its brand equity from unnecessary besmirching,” said Dr Mzembi yesterday.
“So on the balance, it’s wiser to let go, and help WHO focus on its mandate while we focus Zimbabwe on its membership obligations. That notwithstanding, the President will carry on with his passion for NCDs which are killing over 40 million people per annum with 80 percent of them from the developing world. That, more than the global ambassadorship, was the motivation, saving lives and answering SDG Goal 3.4 and that is to cut premature deaths from NCDs by a third going forward to 2030. We respect the WHO decision as much as we respected their initial decision to honour our President,” Dr Mzembi said.
Political analysts said the decision was a result of bullying by the West. Mr Goodwine Mureriwa said he was not surprised by Dr Ghebreyesus’ about-turn.
“It is not surprising at all. A heavy and hard stick has been applied on the director. The Western monsters say ‘either you are with us or you against us’. Their hegemonic capitalist monopoly is so pervasive and ubiquitous. It continues to be a neo-colonial albatross around Africa’s neck,” said Mr Mureriwa.
“The West are hypocritical bullies and this is why we pulled out of the Commonwealth. The move to rescind the appointment (of President Mugabe) is malicious and barbaric, yet it only hardens us to protect our independence and sustain our sovereignty. Right is might and we will never allow wrong to override right. It’s about principles,” Mr Mureriwa said.
He added that the decision by WHO justifies urgent calls to reform the UN system.
“What has happened is the reason why the UN system has to be reformed and democratised so that it does not pander to the whims of a few powerful nations. It’s clear that the UN agencies are not independent and can be rail-roaded into making decisions that please a few nations,” he added.
Analyst and lawyer Mr Tendai Toto acknowledged that Dr Ghebreyesus acted under immense pressure to reverse his decision.
“The ambassadorial role has been rescinded after immense pressure and campaign by the global powerful and heavyweights as a way of embarrassing Zimbabwe. One asks the question, what goodwill and ingenuity was there in the appointment in the first place? And of what validity and substance is the rescission of that appointment? It presents a global diplomatic circus that leaves many to wonder if WHO is a serious and solid world organisation,” Mr Toto said.
Writing on Facebook, a Mr Jonathan Shoniwa said the appointment was an acknowledgement in the first place of something that President Mugabe had done.
“The people that appointed him are serious medical professionals, what had they seen? Vangavaoneyi? And where has it gone to?” he querried.
He also slammed Zimbabweans who were at the forefront of calling for the reversal of President Mugabe’s appointment.
“It’s sad because the people at the forefront (of calling for the rescinding of the award) were Zimbabweans, decrying their own. This appointment was not about one man, but the country, Brand Zimbabwe. It had the potential to open doors for our young medical students, for the country’s health sector and the economy as a whole,” he said.
In his statement announcing the rescission of the appointment, Dr Ghebreyesus tacitly admitted that he had been pressurised to act.
“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised. I have also consulted with the Government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organisation,” reads part of his statement.