Shame as WHO demotes Mugabe


THE World Health Organisation (WHO) unceremoniously stripped President Robert Mugabe of the goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) honour yesterday after the United Nations agency’s director-general Tedros Ghabreyesus succumbed to pressure from rights activists hardly four days after being appointed.

By Richard Chidza/Online

The rights groups claimed the Zanu PF leader did not deserve the recognition.

For a man who does not shy away from the international diplomatic highway, WHO’s decision yesterday left the 93-year-old Zanu PF leader, reeling with his public relations handlers groping for a response.

State media last week crowed over Mugabe’s appointment, describing it as “a new feather in the President’s cap” before social media went into complete meltdown yesterday as news of Mugabe’s demotion went viral.

Ghabreyesus, in a terse statement yesterday, admitted that the decision to reverse the appointment came following an outcry from rights activists across the globe, who accused Mugabe of having a well-documented “long track record of human rights violations”.
“Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of HE President Robert Mugabe as WHO goodwill ambassador for NCDs in Africa. As a result, I have decided to rescind the appointment,” Ghabreyesus said.

Ethiopian Ghabreyesus suggested Mugabe had agreed to be stripped of the honour.

“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised. I have also consulted with the government of Zimbabwe and we have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organisation,” the WHO boss said.

Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi yesterday chose to be diplomatic over the humiliating incident, saying WHO had embarrassed itself more than the President.

“The inordinate noise around the designation of (the) President as WHO Africa global ambassador does not assist the cause in the first place. If anything it is WHO that has benefitted tremendously from its decision in nominating President Mugabe to lead the fight against NCDs through media amplification of WHO itself. We respect the WHO decision as much as we respected the initial decision to honour our President,” Mzembi said.

“On a name recognition scale, this name beats them all, but it is our business to protect the brand equity from unnecessary besmirching. So on the balance its wiser to let go and help WHO focus on its mandate while Zimbabwe (focuses) on its membership obligations.”

But Zanu PF Highfield West MP and ruling party’s former information director Psychology Maziwisa expressed disgust at the decision.

“A very, very disappointing decision by WHO, but not an entirely unexpected one, given the well-known political position of its donors on Zimbabwe,” Maziwisa said on Twitter.

Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo had warned Ghabreyesus could not reverse the decision without losing his dignity, suggesting it could have been part of a sinister plot to soil Mugabe’s image.

“If @DrTedros wasn’t part of a sinister plot in the first place and if his decision was professional and with goodwill, then he must stick to it!” Moyo ranted.

Before Ghabreyesus’ late afternoon bombshell, Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba had scoffed at the protests by rights activists.

“They are just protests and do not matter. He was not appointed to represent civil society,” Charamba said dismissively.

Efforts to contact him later were unsuccessful, while Information minister Simon Khaya Moyo was unreachable.

Mugabe’s critics had described the appointment as a “sickening irony”.

WHO partners in the fight against NCDs – in a statement earlier – rejected Mugabe’s appointment given the Zimbabwean leader’s checkered human rights record.

“While we support WHO and Dr Tedros in their ambition to drive the NCD agenda forward, we are unable to recognise President Mugabe as a champion for NCDs,” the statement said.

The civil society groups indicated WHO could not justify Mugabe’s appointment, adding the UN agency might have been left with no option given the Zanu PF leader was the only African President in Montevideo.

“Given these systematic abuses and his approach to NCDs and tobacco control in the past, NCD civil society present in Montevideo believe that President Mugabe’s appointment as WHO goodwill ambassador for NCDs cannot be justified,” it said.

Mugabe has turned Zimbabwe into an international pariah amid accusations of human rights abuses. The soon-to-be-94 years old leader has, however, dismissed the accusations as a figment of a paranoid Western hemisphere bent on pushing him out of power.

Yesterday, a senior Mugabe aide confirmed authorities in Zimbabwe were jittery, as the possibility of global shame lingers.

“It’s a worry for us and we are consulting and engaging WHO. We are aware of the protests from pressure groups, but we cannot be reacting to social media rants because we are recipients. We will wait for official communication from WHO and see whether they will stand by their decision or change then we will take a position. It would be a case of jumping the gun if we respond,” the official said on condition of anonymity.


  1. Comment…What has changed about Mugabe in the last six days? Who decided to appoint him in the first place? Mugabe remains president of Zimbabwe hence the so-called demotion is neither here nor there. Its a non-event

  2. He was appointed because he was the only president who attended the meeting, so they thought if they appoint someone else he would feel belittled…

  3. Bob did not ask for the appointment To then strip him of something he did not ask for shows how shallow some of these institutions have become. They knew Bob’s shitty human rights record and the collapse of the health system in this country thanks to him but they still appointed him. This stripping has more to do with the countries who fund the WHO ( USA, UK, EU etc) They probably threatened to withhold funding. Dr Tedros should actually resign in shame because he surely is to blame for this embarrassing debacle. How do you appoint such a fellow and such an old ,tired and sick man to be goodwill ambassador when he does not even have any goodwill left in him!

  4. Comment…@ genuine zethembe ngobese I am the Sekeru Chaminuka who was murdered by madzviti hordes at the instigation of Lobengula who saw him as stumbling block to his deals with Rhodes to sell our country for sugar. I am a 62 year old sekuru vechisvina and proud who look at things objectively. WHO was not under pressure to appoint anyone to that honorary position. Mugabe only avenged the murder of Sekuru Chaminuka and others by organising gukurahundi but I dont support him.

  5. @ sekuru chaminuka…you’ve said nothing apa you’re a fake Chaminuka and your son Bob did not murder thousands ndebeles to avenge your murder. It was for his own personal and political benefit and he got what he wanted and is ruling the country as he pleasures..usade kutaura tonhorowondo twenhando mdhara

  6. So where we the other African leaders then? Obviously they sent their health ministers but for us, the man himself had to be there. How humiliating!

  7. @Chaminuka what you wrote up is senseless..zvinoshamisa kuti munhu ane 62 years anomafungire akaita seaya..what do you teach vazukuru vako..ruvengo,manyepo nedzosashure..Reform Kaguzi

  8. Serves Mugabe right! The only problem that we have in this ominous event is the remorselessness that is characteristic of Mugabe. He does not care, witness his stubbornly phlegmatic countenance in situations that that a normal person would feel the pressure to do things right, and bow out. In the very first place he remorselessly traveled to this gathering and presented himself apparently (in the process spending millions) as the only African leader, with the other African leaders choosing to miss this one as a non event.

  9. Ahhhh…. Why trouble the oldman. how will he manage international duty when national duty gives him a challenges…do you want to expose his weaknesses (Sleeping publicly, falling, repetion etc) at international level. kkkkkkk… ah Bakithi..
    if your father becomes mad/kupenga/ukuhlanya at home and he fails to recognise that he is made, you dont send him to a neighbor for correction… inhlanya siyakhangela kuphela.

  10. The WHO appointment was to shield HE from embarrassment as the only HOS at what would pass as a gathering of, at least, directors of health of attending countries, or at best, ministers of health. But a Head of State (HOS), hey, all present would not understand why. So, they thought it less embarrassing to give the loner some honour. But the world knows better, and soon the honour was deservedly withdrawn, only to relive the embarrassment that a whole HOS, who had no business attending such, should have seen coming. SHAME, SHAME and SHAME again. Hope HE could listen to good advice!!!

  11. It’s good to see an egg on Mugabe’s face for once. He overrates himself so much and this time he has been brought down to earth.

    • @Yewuono you re very right Bob overrates himself, ppl around him overrate him, and many africans overrate him but zimbabweans know very well how dismally he has performed since 1980 and they indeed made their voices heard. at least the UN has some semblance of dignity to retain…just imagine if that were AU or SADC hahahahaha….but frankly there is no goodwill whatsoever in Mugabe in whatever respect…

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