UNWTO needs more than just Mr Nice Guy Dr Mzembi
Dr Mzembi

Dr Mzembi

Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Candidates for the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation have pronounced themselves and between now and May it’s going to be gloves off. The campaign has reached fever pitch and will reach a crescendo just before the May 17 election.

The race has become more interesting and going for broke, but for Zimbabwe, it is so far so good for Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi, funding issues aside.

Dr Mzembi is battling it out with Mr Zurab Pololikashvili of Georgia, Márcio Favilla Lucca de Paula of Brazil, Mrs Gloria Guevara of Mexico and light weights, Mr Alain St Ange of Seychelles and Mr Lahcen Haddad of Morocco.

The race is really between Dr Mzembi and de Paula, the rest are viewed as opportunists. The world tourism family has been debating the candidates and if elections were to be held today, African Union candidate Dr Mzembi would win. It is given, the dynamics might change, but that post is for us to lose.

The other countries competing have a superior financial muscle to Zimbabwe but when it comes to the candidate itself, Zimbabwe has a better and internationally — recognisable brand that is easy to market, given Dr Mzembi’s depth of character, his mental stamina, his astuteness, intelligence and grasp of issues and indeed his eloquence.

A quick example comes to mind when you look at the response to world issues.

When US President Donald Trump announced a buffet of travel bans, it was only Dr Mzembi who showed depth of character and challenged the position. The rest of the candidates were afraid even to raise an eyebrow. Dr Mzembi did not call for a Press conference, the techno- savvy minister penned an article himself within hours, showing his versatility and his rapid response to an issue so dear to many people in the world. That indeed separated men from boys.

The UNWTO job does not need Mr Nice Guy. It needs depth of character. It needs understanding and indeed it needs a quick grasp and response to the issue on the ground.

I am not going to waste time talking about St Ange and Haddad because they are regarded by the tourism family as dogs of war and spoilers who want to divide the African vote through sponsorship from some European countries, in direct breach of AU statutes.

Now that Morocco has been readmitted to the AU, it must play ball and follow protocol and administrative requirements. However, back home, the fiscus should seriously come up, as matter of urgency, with a funding regime that can rescue Dr Mzembi from being a basket case.

A candidate for such a job must be presentable physically and financially. Tourism is about flamboyancy. It is about style and luxury. The guys in the game meet and frequent affluent places and for Dr Mzembi to be reduced to a beggar is humiliating.

The gist of all this is that Dr Mzembi’s campaign machinery should be well oiled to respond to campaign needs. Suffice to say so far the guy has struggled to make ends meet but has inexplicably soldiered on.

The other candidates have been financially backed by their Governments that they have almost everything they need for the campaign. For us, we have the best candidate but he does not have the money. The post is for us to lose.

Since 2009, when he was appointed Minister of Tourism, Dr Mzembi has distinguished himself as a thoughtful leader and grandmaster of corporate governance who exudes unparalleled vision, wisdom and negotiation skills that saw Zimbabwe co-host with Zambia the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly, against the political and economic grain.

Suffice to say that was the first time ever since the establishment of UNWTO in 1975 that the general assembly was held in Sub Saharan Africa. The other time it was held on African soil was in Senegal in 2007.

Africa has confidence in Dr Mzembi’s thoughtful leadership, his depth of character and qualifications to win the UNWTO secretary-general’s post. Let us, in our various forms and beliefs, support him for the job. He is our man. He can do it. It is our turn.

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