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January 20, 2018

Zimbabwe moving to secure the next UNWTO Secretary General position

Zimbabwe’s  minister of Tourism H.E. Walter Mzembi is trying to secure his move to become the next Secretary General of the UNWTO (United Nation World Tourism Organization)

The 7th meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of ministers responsible for Tourism was held in Gaborone, Botswana  next week, March 14-15, 2016.

The Council endorsed the candidature and nomination of Hon. Walter Mzembi by the Government of Zimbabwe to the position of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO),  the SADC Council of Ministers said in a statement on Wednesday

Earlier this month at the ITB trade show in Berlin  the replacement of Taleb Rifai , the current UNWTO Secretary General was discussed in many forums.

European, Asian and South American Ministers are yet to make up their minds on who they propose as the next secretary general.

Politically Zimbabwe  has been controversial in many countries.  Does this move indicate drastic changes in Zimbabwe’s policies?

Could  Zimbabwe lead the United Nation’s Tourism body and keep in place the unity the UNWTO enjoyed thanks to the tireless efforts Taleb Rifai brought to the UN agency? .

This may be a question to ask for many that will attend the upcoming WTTC Global Summit in Dallas, Texas next month.
With Minister Mzembi  expected to attend the WTTC summit in the United States, his move may be on the hidden agenda for leaders of the private tourism sector to discuss.


  • I’m an Expert of National Administration of Tourism of Niger ‘ Republic. I’m interested to have all news and information about tourism and to give my view. Tourism and Security is a big problem that must take the all attention of ours leaders.
    The next Secretary General of UNWTO can be from Africa.

  • I have read the stories about the UNWTO Secretary General position that will fall vacant in 2017. Clearly, there is one common characteristic that I pick-this online media is doing the bidding for one person and seeking to subtly attack Dr Walter Mzembi.
    But let me mention this, as John Mason says “Sticks and stones are only thrown at fruit-bearing trees”. He further reminds us that people with momentum all share one trait; they attract criticism or in other words, they are criticized unjustly. I also had to do my own check on facts. The fact is that if Zimbabwe’s Minister has been selected by SADC as Governmental Body, who are in themselves Full Members of the UNWTO, it implies huge confidence in him by the 15 countries. Inadvertently, the African Union, where he has done well in mainstreaming tourism issue in Agenda 2063 is likely to support him just like many other regions who have confidence in him going forward. After all, this Minister appears in all intents and purpose, to be a very effective global tourism leader who can consolidate expertly Dr Taleb Rifai’s great achievements. The risk that I see in the story is that it has been written three times by the same people also in eTN (http://www.eturbonews.com/69752/zimbabwe-moving-secure-next-unwto-secretary-general-position) and twice appeared on 24 and 25 March 2016 in UNWTOWIRE (http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=83e5e6afaaec623921e5daa69&id=137ade9ec2). One wonders about the intentions. One wonders on this common characteristic of attacking Walter Mzembi. Clearly, the paper’s intention is quarried and obviously antagonizes people who are now curious to understand why attacking unjustly this Minister and his country. This style of journalism indeed it falls not short of glory of the Lord, but of the expectations of the global tourism community. Technically, it also galvanizes countries around Mzembi even more with greater resolve than the intended objective of vilifying him as initially conceived by this online paper. If he is clever, Mzembi can make huge political capital out of it. This paper must be objective if it is to maintain its credibility, to influence global tourism issues. It serves no purpose to do the bidding for others while attacking one aspirant and his country.
    Rather, articulation of and robust discourse on policy issues, is what we need, expect and indeed want to see so that people can make their choices from various candidate. It is a fact that once the opportunity for the election comes, there will be competition for it and people should be judged by virtue of their policy positions rather than where they come from or the history of their countries. The great celebrated civilizations of the world have taught us principles of democracy, free-will, justice, fairness, and moved humanity from the old self-opinionated belief and archaic persona character attacks on individuals by others to respecting human dignity.
    I hope Minister Mzembi will maintain his cool in this matter. I remind that when you see people throwing stone at a tree, it means, the tree not only bears fruits, but sumptuous ones, and instead, do not throw them back stones, but throw them your fruits to show them your goodness. The world is now more informed and more analytical on these stories. Therefore, this paper needs to self-introspect and also to be careful, the very stone that you reject and attack, might become the cornerstone of your house you will live in. Over and above that, I have also learnt that all great people get criticized unfairly, and to Minister Mzembi, do as Edward Gibbon said: “I never make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinions I have no respect.” Mzembi, you are more of a creator of things in your thought processes than to criticize and it is the reason why those trying to criticize you are never going to be solvers of tourism problems-but will be problems to the sector itself.

  • This comment was received by the Indian Ocean Times:

    The Indian Ocean Vanilla Islands all depend on tourism and these islands are known as year round tourism destinations. They believe in tourism and work hard to defend the industry. The islands have been active supporters of the work of the UNWTO. The islands have always said that the position of UNWTO General Secretary after Taleb Rifai is for a unifier and one the world at large will accept. The race is not a matter of clan or group but remains a matter of unification!

    According to WORLDTOURISM Wire, Zimbabwe’s minister of Tourism H.E. Walter Mzembi is trying to secure his move to become the next Secretary General of the UNWTO (United Nation World Tourism Organization).He was recently endorsed by SADC. Can Zimbabwe today be seen as a country set to unify the the world of tourism through their emissary, the current Minister of Tourism.

    Anyone who will replace Taleb Rifai as Secretary General will find his shoes very large to fill. The Secretariat of the Indian Ocean Islands (Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Comoros, Maldives, Mayotte and Seychelles) will be meeting soon to make their proposal for the position known.

    The UNWTO members should think about the choice they all have to make. Already the UNWTO does not have every country as member states and only recently another country dropped from the membership list. This is why the one who replaces Taleb Rifai needs to be a real unifier with the country he today serves seen and respected as an example in the Community of Nations.

  • I can see and sense serious divisive tendencies on the innuendos around issue of Island grouping. If my geography is correct, these are African Islands. By this, are commentary, is it correct to assume that there is already some form of breakaway? If so, then the Island block is not able to unite the world in this instance. When one speaks of unity, it should be in principle and in reality. You cannot indicate right and turn left, which is very dangerous indeed. In all fairness, can this issue of race and regionalism be a thing of the past and we interrogate matters relating to policy and not race, nationality and regionalism. The very issue of peace and security that is high on the UNWTO Agenda, clearly, it is partly a function of such shenanigan tendencies which must avoid at all costs. I suggest that going forward, let us be less emotional and avoid showing the world that you have the capacity to break it. Such elements means you can’t built a unified UNWTO. This is my reading and we need to unite the world. As a Prof of Tourism and Ecology, I have seen how tourism can unite people and even defeat the extremism of terror. I have lectured in Mauritius, and traveled to most of these Islands. Yes they are depended on tourism, but the writer seem to be off the rail by indicating some form of breakaway. I suppose Presidents of these countries they want to be part of the bigger group-the African Union and its sub-regional groupings such as East Africa Economic Community, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and others. So integration into the global community is based on consensus and a leader who does not show breakaway tendencies is what we need going into the future. Can we have a break from focusing on the personal and country brands because if we go into that, then we have serious problems. Let us have the superiority of your ideas and tell us what you can offer to the world, what you have done to demonstrate your policy capacity as Dr Taleb Rifai has done. This is what the world is looking for. We are looking for leadership excellence, and countries can only be in question to provide us with the candidate no matter their country brands. We need a UNWTO SG who can carry the world and hold it together in this instance. I am afraid, the indications of Vanilla Islands is in bad taste indeed.

  • Dr Rez

    Interesting debate here. As an academic, I have followed events on tourism for quite some time. I would hasten to advise European, Asian and South American Ministers to endorse Dr Mzembi without hesitation. I have listened to the Zimbabwe Tourism Minister many times and in him there lies a tourism re-generator of our times. The writer of the article seeks to discredit him on the basis of what he calls ‘Zimbabwe’s controversy’. Let me hereby remind the writer that Zimbabwe and Zambia co-hosted what delegates dubbed one of the best events in tourism history. There is abundant literature in the form of tourism reports, bulletins and news which attest to successful hosting of that event. All this success happened despite what the writer calls ‘Zimbabwe’s controversy’. UNWTO General Assembly meetings are surely a unifier of tourism players and the Zimbabwe-Zambia co-hosted event did just that. This fact therefore throws out the writer’s claim that the Zimbabwe brand flies in the face of any global developmental agenda. Maybe the Indian Ocean Islands observed negatives at the event as a result of ‘Zimbabwe’s image’. They need to share with us their bad experience. And a reminder to the writer is that Dr Mzembi was the face behind the entire event.

    I also understand that Dr Mzembi is the chair (for the second time I think) of UNWTO Africa. For him to retain the position, there must be something good which he surely should be doing. We have also not heard that his country’s ‘controversy’ has interfered with the execution of his duties as the UNWTO Africa chair. Maybe the Indian Ocean Islands have been inconvenienced in one way or another by ‘Zimbabwe’s controversy’ during Dr Mzembi’s tenure as chair of UNWTO Africa. They should then tell the world how his chairmanship has inconvenienced them. Otherwise as far as Africa and the world knows, Dr Mzembi exhibits high levels of professionalism and profound knowledge of his work.

    I have seen Dr Mzembi eloquently delivers speeches of well-research work in various conferences across the world. I have seen him being cheered and recognised many times. Anybody associated with tourism events at a global scale will agree with me.

    • Samantha Moore

      Dr Rez
      I too personally know Dr Mzembi and please do not be fooled by his eloquent speeches, the question is that does he produce? Dr Mzembi unfortunately refuses to tackle issues that could soil his reputation and he prefers to ride on successful stories. The illegal animal hunting in Zimbabwe is an issue of double standards that Mzembi has deliberately refused to tackle. Officials in his ministry who clearly violate the rights of young girls… To hold such an office, one needs to be morally upright and I am afraid Mzembi does not meet that mark.

      • Dear Samatha
        I hope when my rendition of issues regarding conservation work of Minister Mzembi are published you will be answered. The issue of about abuse of abuse of girls by his officials you mentioned is interesting and you can be useful if you can bring that evidence to the Zim Government so that the culprits can be arrested and prosecuted. I know Zimbabwe has the most tight laws with regards to punishing such people and the fact that you mentioned it, bring-forth the evidence so that action can be taken. We live in a global world and interpol is everywhere for you to make reports if you are convinced by what you said. I also want Samantha to know that speculative propaganda is not helpful and you need to separate issues here between the Minister and what other people do in their private life that the Minister has not control or jurisdiction over. What people do in their bedrooms at night is not the Minister’s mandate. If it is is illegal, then those people should be arrested instead of making it a case for Dr Mzembi.

  • Dr Rez

    I posted a comment yesterday on this article. It seems my comment was not approved. I never had communication back informing me about any reasons for the rejection of my comment.

    • Just approved it – sorry it’s Easter Weekend, and we are officially closed till Tuesday – but are monitoring it.
      Thanks for your post- much appreciate- and helpful

  • Dr Rez

    Dear Samantha,

    I understand your concerns about Dr Mzembi. You will however realise that poaching is a challenge to all Sub-Saharan African countries. Poaching is terrorism, so we will never blame Obama, the French or Belgian governments for having been attacked. We instead should stand with them to fight terrorism. Poaching in large natural game reserves in Africa requires efforts from all of us across the world. The challenge therefore is our collective responsibility.

    I am not privy to the other matter which you alluded to. Violation of girl rights is a serious matter no matter how we look at it. You seem to sound that it is prevalent though I may suspect that it was an incident. Surely, the administrative head of the ministry who is the permanent secretary must act on it with the speed it deserves. Zimbabwe is known to uphold girl rights with many organisations championing the girl rights cause – Association Of Women’s Clubs (AWC) Of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association, The Zimbabwe Human Rights, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Girl Child Network Zimbabwe, Women’s Action Group, Musasa Project, etc, etc, etc, etc. Such organisations are many in Zimbabwe and are composed of highly educated activists. This is why I have high suspicion that the harassment of girls by Mzembi’s officials could have just been an incident, otherwise it cannot be prevalent under watchful eyes of a plethora of organisations promoting girl rights.

    The bottom line therefore is that Mzembi has proved himself. His re-election to lead UNWTO Africa is one stark example. His energy and insight is another. There are of course many other competent people, but Mzembi’s competency levels cannot be questioned.

  • I want to put few things into perspective here. Firstly, I have followed the work of Dr Walter Mzembi, the Zimbabwean Minister for Tourism. I have had the privilege again of doing conservation work in Africa and the Southern Africa region as well. On the issue of Poaching, the Minister has done well. He authored a paper on Tourism and Biodiversity: Zero Tolerance to Poaching in Africa by 2020, which was subsequently endorsed by the UNWTO leading to commissioning of a Study on Towards the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa (available online you can google). But more importantly, he has also been instrumental in advancing the issue of sustainable conservation at the African Union level. He has been invited to make presentations at the African Union and during the last African Union, he has advanced three critical issues: Tourism and Biodiversity-Policy consummation, accommodation and institutionalization together with his Congo Brazzaville Minister. The AU Executive Council Report of the Meeting in Mekele is testimony to his effort. In November 2015, he made a proposal that is before the African Union that of creating a new Commission to deal with Tourism, Biodiversity and Aviation, which are interlinked elements in tourism value chain. There are others, but these one he identified as super critical. I am wondering therefore where does he fall short when it comes to conservation when he has done so much. In his speech attached herewith, he is clear on conservation and indeed so he is on the issues of Tourism and security. Back to the conservation issue, he is only Minister of Tourism and if all things were equal and had the portfolio of Environment and Natural Resources, which in this case, is the mandate of another Minister, he would have made majestic contributions to the subject. So far, he has acquitted himself expertly. Recalling his efforts in the past when the Save Valley Conservancy broke out (the world’s biggest conservancy for that matter) when elites in his country where allocated hunting quotas, he was the only Minister who stood in defence of wildlife and attacked this elite resource capture and according to a report by Kawadza (2012:3) quoted Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry being furious over this issue. He (Minister Mzembi) raised national and international alarm over Save Valley Conservancy in South Eastern Lowveld of Zimbabwe that shares a borderline with the GLTP covering South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique regarding how far the elites had gone in benefiting themselves under the Wildlife-Based Land Reform and Empowerment process. The Minister asserted that:
    “It promotes greed and alienation of our masses who are the legitimate broad-based empowerment partners in community share ownership and empowerment trusts as currently being applied in the mining sector. This business of empowering people who are already empowered severally in other sectors, such as farming, ranching, sugar cane farming, mining, etc, will not pass the moral test nor will it endear us to the people except to ourselves”.
    It is necessary to taken note of the fact that where communities are not participating, chances are high that those privy to policies and legislation, would always seek to benefit themselves in the face of competition for resources, particularly the lucrative wildlife business.
    Further to that, the same Minister was candid to note some of the fundamental challenges posed by lack of a proper definition and classification of who have to own, derive benefits and to have authority over resources such that officials and the politically privileged individuals and officials were so immorally determined to exploit the resources at the expense of sustainability. He still attacked them and the he was vicious at the actions against his colleagues (mind you what wrath would one of this sound mind would invite himself by choosing to be different in an African country like Zimbabwe-he needs to be credited for being courageous indeed). He said:

    “It is wrong to have minority ownership of conservancies, but it is even more unpardonable to replace that minority white who are sustainably managing these resource with a minority black to exploit it unguided, in the face of a crisis of expectations and thirst for empowerment from our black majority,” said Minister Mzembi.
    He went further and said “Environment (ministry) is the custodians, and our mandate is to market, and we can only market value not a threat. Wildlife management and conservation are also investment and philanthropic areas, in some instances protected by BIPAs (Bilateral Investments Protection Agreements), which are a sincerity test of trade goodwill between nation states”.

    I have included these statements from this Minister, whom I think has cutting-edge knowledge when it comes to this subject matter. I am aware as a fellow academic that after this happened, it inspired him to do his field research based PhD with Aldersgate University in which he studied on An Exploratory study of Conservation Management in Zimbabwe: A Governance Perspective.

    Let me mention that the Hon Minister is a very effective person from policy, intellectual, philosophical, political and indeed diplomatic perspective. He has the pedigree to provide pragmatic leadership at any given level. Above all, he understands global tourism issues not from a narrow point of view but very intellectually and policy wise stimulating manner. Despite coming from Africa, this Minister has what it takes to give value for the UNWTO and consolidate what Dr Taleb Rifai has done for the UNWTO.

    One other thing that I need to mention before I pen off, as I checked, it is clear that he is not the only one running for this positon, but what is interesting is that the critics to him seem to be individuals somewhere at Islands in Africa who are merchandising to outdo him by cheap propaganda. This is surprising. It is pathetic to see this happening when the region should be united for their own. I this will be published so that the world knows and I will be please to read it. I have heard people saying their comments are being censored. Please dear Sir, publish my comments for the world to judge for themselves. Thank you.

  • WORLDTOURISMWIRE thank you for publishing my comments and I am hoping that the world is now aware of what this chap, the Hon Minister Mzembi has done. There is a lot more, and I can write a whole 10 chapter Book on Africa’s involvement in UNWTO with special focus on this Minister. I am not bidding for him, but I have a deep appreciation for his great work. He has saved the SADC Regional Tourism Organization for Southern Africa (RETOSA) from being collapsed when this organization was praised by the UNWTO Secretary General Dr Taleb that it is one of the best example in the world. He managed to save the organization from others who wanted to collapse it when the world is fast globalising and integrating economically. Integration is good for Africa and the sub-region because these days, tourism thrives on regionally integrated products. Let me state that he is championing the Univisa project with a Pilot Project having been sponsored by the World Bank between Zimbabwe and Zambia much to the benefit of the tourism sector. He has been very loud and clear on having an African Schengen Visa modeled around the EU Schengen Visa- I wish him well in pursuing his great vision.

  • Nelson Zengeni

    Dr. Mzembi is the man for this job. He has done a lot for tourism in Africa during the chairmanship of Zimbabwe to the AU. Give him a chance, and the world will be blessed to have this man leading the UNWTO.

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