“It is all over for Walter Mzembi. They are so many cameras here. This is high profile and highly political”, a bystander told eTN from outside the Harare Court Room where Mzembi had his bail hearing Saturday morning. Bail was granted at 10.45 am Saturday Morning and set for $400.00. Mzembi’s trial date was scheduled for January 22, 2018.
Still facing prison, the former Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi is accused by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC). Mzembi was arrested in Harare on Friday morning. Believing in the system and in his country even after the recent power change Mzembi just told eTN: “There was nothing to fear in Zimbabwe.”
Well respected among ministers of tourism from around the globe, liked and highly educated and seen as a global leader also within people in the inner circle of the World Tourism Organization, WTTC and many other tourism organizations, the Hon. Walter Mzembi was known and seen by everyone as someone who was carrying the Zimbabwe flag high and proud. He honorably represented his country as a minister of tourism since February 13, 2009 with pride and dignity under a government and president who was disliked in many parts of the world.
He was instrumental to bring the UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013 to Zimbabwe. The event was co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia and still seen as one of the most effective and best events UNWTO ever concluded.
In 2017 Mzembi was the candidate of the African Union for the position of the 2018-21 Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization and lost second against Zurab Pololikashvili from Georgia. Many say it was not Mzembi’s qualification and vision for World Tourism what cost him the election, but the association with the country he stood for.
Mzembi served under the Mugabe presidency as the minister of tourism since February 13, 2009. This was not an easy task but well done under the condition faced.
It waits to be seen if UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili who just started his term 5 days ago will use his new influence to help Mr. Mzembi.
At the recent UNWTO General Assembly in Chengdu, China, Mzembi was invited to the stage and seen hugging Zurab Pololikashvili to congratulate him after a bitter fight for the position.
Mzembi was appointed as the foreign minister of Zimbabwe by ailing president Mugabe and only served 6 weeks before the government changes in this African country in November 2017.
Mzembi was well aware of the risk to not leave Zimbabwe, but as a patriot and believer in a new democracy stayed put. Mzembi tried to meet Emmerson Mnangagwa, the new president. He spent all day in his office in December but wasn’t able to shake hands.
Mzembi went to South Africa over Christmas and New Years in search for a job but returned to his country on Friday morning when he was arrested.
“This is hard to swallow knowing Walter Mzembi truly loves his country”, a person close to Mzembi told eTN. The charges of corruption are somewhat strange. A first reaction to the charges: “You want us to believe this? The truth will prevail and it is the truth that will set Mzembi free.”
“Already, I have been told that the case is weak. They want to shame Walter because he is much loved by most people and it’s obviously related to the preparation for elections next year.”
Mzembi’s lawyer Mr. Job Sikhala said his client was facing allegations of donating for television screens to churches. The Zimbabwe government bought TVs for a 2010 World Cup promotion. After the World Cup, former Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi donated 4 of the TV’s to churches. This was led by led by Emmanuel Makandiwa, Walter Magaya and Bishop Mutendi This has been the official version and reason for his arrest.
His attorney Job Wiwa Sikhala was one of the most vocal opposition leaders in Zimbabwe. He was known for his scathing criticism against the Robert Mugabe led Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party. He belongs to the first crop of opposition leaders who were influential in the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change.
Job Sikhala has become well known in Africa after claiming to have been tortured by the Mugabe regime. Job, who was an MP with the Movement for Democratic Change said he had to endure severe torture after being arrested in January.
Also detained was former Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge. Undenge is alleged to have abused his position as the former Minister of Energy and Power Development to influence ZESA to illegally parcel out tenders to those he may have favored.