The new Zimbabwe: What about tourism and Dr. Walter Mzembi?

Today it’s “Welcome to the new Zimbabwe”, ecstatic Zimbabweans keep saying this to me in the streets of Harare. “Now you journalists can come here and do your work without fear”. These are the tweets received by a journalist on the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.

Cheers “Free at last” are heard everywhere. Today a tense Harare has turned into a city of people dancing on the streets and celebration. Correcting the past is on everyone’s mind, but the next president expected to be appointed for this Southern African Nation may be one of the old guards. The British foreign minister and the British Prime Minister hope it will be a turning point to lead to a free and fair election in Zimbabwe.

Celebrations are not limited to Zimbabwe. People are on the streets in Johannesburg and London, many in exile hope to be able to go home.

This is tonight, but how will the future shape out for Zimbabwe?

Travel and tourism is a big currency earner and job creator in Zimbabwe, and earning currency, generating revenue and jobs should be on the top of the agenda in a country with more than 90% of the population unemployed.

One of the very successful leaders in the travel and tourism world under the Mugabe administration was Dr. Walter Mzembi. He single handed brought Zimbabwe back into the community of UNWTO nations, his lengthy service as chair of its Africa Commission and his hard-fought campaign to become UNWTO Secretary-General.

Mostly because of his efforts, Zimbabwe repaid all its unpaid Membership dues to UNWTO, re-joined the organization and a couple of years later was co-host of UNWTO’s Assembly in Victoria Falls, with Zambia, welcoming a thousand delegates from around the world. Mr. Mzembi fought one of the toughest fights when against all odds wanted to become the new Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization. Many insiders say he didn’t lose the battle because of his qualifications,  his knowledge, and his intentions, but only because of the country, he represented.
The political world took over at the UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu in September, when unexpected power and methods were used to convince the world to stand up against Zimbabwe, but these powers had no issue against Dr. Walter Mzembi as a person.

Importantly, Zimbabwe’s long-suffering tourism industry got a heart for a revival and as we all know unlocked investment and visitor revenue to boost its beleaguered economy and help lift its people out of poverty.

Mzembi for years went out of his way to promote his country’s tourism industry and build bridges for his country with a global mindset of peace and tourism, investment, friendship, and integrity. His diplomatic skills are exceptional.

In his short job as the foreign minister, he wasted no time assuring the world Zimbabwe is the place to invest.

Technically he is still the Foreign Minister recently appointed by Robert Mugabe and this may very well mean the end of his career or worse prison, when in fact his skills, standing, and connections should be better used to build a new Zimbabwe. Dr. Mzembi is currently in hiding  – but for how long?

Dr. Mzembi had started to build a new Zimbabwe already and quietly. He started this process some time ago, always forced to move within the limitation his former boss gave him. How much more could he do without having these limitations now?

Dr. Mzembi was recently ousted from his party ZANU PF party along with numerous other cabinet members and President Mugabe himself.

Dr. Mzembi deserves the respect and the help of the global travel and tourism industry. He represented the future of Zimbabwe, he earned trust even among those that didn’t trust his country,  and tourism had almost everything to do with it. It looks, however, he got hit in the crossfire.

This morning it’s a new Zimbabwe. The world needs to stand by Zimbabwe now. Zimbabwe needs leaders with a global vision. Dr. Walter Mzembi is one of these leaders.

The global tourism world should show respect and appreciation,  and stand behind one of their own, Dr. Walter Mzembi today.

Responding to the news that Robert Mugabe has resigned as President of Zimbabwe, Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International said:

“After more than three decades of violent repression, the way forward for the country is to renounce the abuses of the past and transition into a new era where the rule of law is respected and those who are responsible for injustices are held to account.

“During 37 years of President Mugabe’s leadership, tens of thousands of people were tortured, forcibly disappeared or killed. President Mugabe condoned human rights violations, defended criminal actions of his officials and allowed a culture of impunity for grotesque crimes to thrive.

“Although Zimbabwe invested heavily in social services in the early years of independence, much of this progress was wiped out by later events such as the Operation Murambatsvina forced evictions campaign of 2005, which destroyed the homes or livelihoods of 700,000 people.

“The people of Zimbabwe deserve better. The next generation of leaders must commit itself to upholding the constitution, living up to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and treating its people with dignity and justice.”

Perhaps Zimbabwe should use the voice they had today and say NO to Mugabe No to Zanu PF, No to organized coups, no to military rule and control. Yes to free and fair elections and Yes to a newly elected leader.

As one reader from Zimbabwe put it today: “How can we trust the same generals who kept Mugabe and ZANU PF in power for the past 37 years, to suddenly have a change of heart and care for our well being? People were carrying placards and posters portraying Mnangagwa and Chiwenga as our liberators. Was this not done to catapult themselves into the leadership of the country? Do we want Mnangagwa as our President, or we want elections to choose whom we want to lead us democratically?”

There are many questions and not so many answers, but today the people of Zimbabwe are happy, are motivated and see light at the end of a long tunnel.