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

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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 of “Free at last” are being heard everywhere. Today a tense Harare has turned into a city of people dancing in the streets and in 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 in the streets in Johannesburg and London, and 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 successful leaders in the travel and tourism world under the Mugabe administration was Dr. Walter Mzembi. He single-handedly brought Zimbabwe back into the community of UNWTO nations during 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 General Assembly in Victoria Falls, along with Zambia, welcoming a thousand delegates from around the world.

Importantly, Zimbabwe’s long-suffering tourism industry has the heart for a revival, and as we all know, unlocked investment and visitor revenue to boost its beleaguered economy is helping to 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 the nation with a global mindset of peace and tourism, investment, friendship, and integrity. His diplomatic skills are exceptional.

In the short amount of time he acted as the Foreign Minister, he wasted no time assuring the world that 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 even worse may land him in prison, when in fact, his skills, standing, and connections should be better used to build a new Zimbabwe.

Dr. Mzembi had already started to quietly build a new Zimbabwe. 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, along with numerous other cabinet members and president Mugabe.

eTN Publisher Juergen Steinmetz said: “I got to know Walter Mzembi as a man of integrity and knowledge with a vision. Never forgetting his vision for the future of his country. I can only hope this happy day today in Zimbabwe will be a new start. I hope it will also be a good start for a talented person like Dr. Walter Mzembi. I hope Dr. Mzembi can have a major role in the new branding of Zimbabwe.”

Currently, it doesn’t look like this, assuming with a joyful and a bitter tear in his eye, Dr. Mzembi is in hiding watching events.

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.

 

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.

 

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.