ZIMBABWE’S co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly set for this August could either improve or soil the country’s erstwhile battered image, analysts contend.
Report by Bernard Mpofu
Once regarded as a rogue State in the region due to a checkered human rights record, Zimbabwe has since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 made significant strides in shedding the bad-boy tag once attached to the country.
With just over two months before Zimbabwe and Zambia jointly hosting the global showcase, political temperatures have already begun rising as parties prepare for an election that will mark an epilogue to the coalition.
Prospects of another coalition between Zanu PF and MDC-T seem to be a pipe dream given the level of discord within the inclusive government formed after a widely contested Presidential election run-off of 2008.
In the event that President Robert Mugabe calls for elections before July 31 in line with the recent Constitutional Court ruling and wins the polls, the MDC-T, which is currently pushing for far-reaching democratic reforms before the elections, may contest the outcome, bringing the country under international scrutiny.
So the question would be, will Mugabe officially open the event knowing so well that his archrivals are hot on his heels challenging the election?
Or will he postpone the election to a later date after the general assembly and portray a unified State?
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Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi this week told NewsDay that ideally his ministry would have preferred an early poll to calm investor fears ahead of the global tourism indaba.
“We would have wanted to put behind all your electoral processes by the time we co-host the general assembly. We wanted elections last year, 2012, to have this year as a clean year without elections. We are confident that the elections are not going to be handled the same week as the UNWTO general assembly,” Mzembi said.
Analysts contend that calling for polls before implementing electoral, media and security sector reforms being demanded by the MDC-T and other political parties might send wrong signals when tourism industry movers and shakers convene in Victoria Falls for the UNWTO meeting.
This, they say, may also blight the country’s efforts to re-engage with the international community following nearly a decade of frosty relations between Harare and the West.
Zimbabwe Council of Tourism former president Emmanuel Fundira said a peaceful post-election period is critical for the successful hosting of the tourism showcase.
“The only concern would arise if our elections do not conform to peace and security agreements. Unless the elections are held in a peaceful way as promised and if we don’t have a contestable election that will not affect the UNWTO conference. We are much more under scrutiny after the election, so having elections before the UNWTO is better,” Fundira said.
African Sun Limited group chief executive officer Shingi Munyeza said the UNWTO would be a time of celebration if elections are held in a peaceful manner.
“I believe if everybody works at peace during the election there would not be any impact, in fact it will be a time to celebrate,” Munyeza said.
Already, the economy, according to Finance minister Tendai Biti, shed up to 3% of its size due to uncertainty over election dates.
Biti said the economy is confronted by a myriad of challenges forcing business to adopt a wait-and-see approach, resulting in low business activity and low confidence.