Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, who is widely supported by African leaders to take over the coveted post of secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), has a new challenger.
According to UNWTO, the former Minister of Tourism and Culture of the Republic of Seychelles, Alain St. Ange, has entered the race after stepping down to concentrate on his election.
“The Seychelles Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports & Marine presented his letter of resignation to the Seychelles President Danny Faure … He wants to enter the getting bigger race to become the UNWTO secretary general. He will be the second African minister entering the race.”
Assertively endorsed by African Heads of State and Government at the African Union Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda, in July last year, Mzembi accepted the distinguished honor of Africa’s candidature for the top UNWTO post.
The days are fast approaching as the two contenders will meet in Madrid, Spain, to launch the official campaign for the post.
According to the London Evening Post, if St. Agne is to receive an the official endorsement of his own government, then he and his government will be openly breaking ranks with the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) and 54-member African Union (AU), which endorsed a single candidate to carry Africa’s bid to win the post.
When asked to comment regarding the recent developments, Mzembi said it was too early for him to comment.
“Too early and too soon for me to comment on other candidates. I am focused on my own lane. Still studying and observing this space, this is geopolitical chess game, so am keeping my cards close to my chest.”
He referred further inquiries to his deputy, Annasticia Ndlovu, who started the interview on a grateful note by saluting SADC and AU member for backing Mzembi for the post.
She added, however, that it was unfortunate that there were some people who were determined to divide the African vote for the UNWTO vote.
“It is very unfortunate that some people on the continent are still not yet able to resist the imagination of the imperialists who do not want to achieve anything but to divide the African vote.”
She urged African Union members to stay resolute and remain focused and to know there is already an official candidate endorsed by the AU heads of states and governments.
She sternly declared that the competitor would not disturb Zimbabwe’s current Minister of Tourism and Hospitality in his “unwavering focus”, as he continues in his endeavors.
“Now as a country and of course as his part as a candidate he has shown he will not be moved by puppets. He has shown exceptional leadership qualities, and has contributed in a big way, in promoting the growth of the economy though tourism for quite a while.”
In a confirmatory tone, she added, “I feel nothing is going to shake us, and nothing is going to shake him, he deserves the job and he is the best candidate. Africa did not make a mistake in endorsing (Mzembi) because he is going to take tourism to greater heights on the continent and globally when he assumes office of secretary general of UNWTO. He is a tried and tested leader and he is the longest servicing tourism minister on the continent.”
Mzembi is serving a second-term as chairperson of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa since 2013.
Ndlovu indicated that it was important to separate perceptions and facts from and what is prevailing on the ground in Zimbabwe. Critics say the country’s degenerating social, economic and political situation is resulting from President Robert Mugabe’s poor governance.
However, his ruling Zanu PF party is blaming the West for imposing what it calls crippling targeted sanctions on the southern African nation following claims of human rights violations and election rigging.
Ndlovu expressed her pride in Zimbabwe’s tourism products, noting that the Seychelles former minister’s moves are an act of weakness.
“We are rich as far as endowments and diverse products choice and as a country I can say we are a bit more principled than Seychelles. We do not expect members of the SADC and even more so the AU to move away from resolutions of the regional body and continental body. That’s a weakness that works against them.”
Zimbabwe co-hosted the UNWTO General Assembly with Zambia in August 2013 in Victoria Falls.
VOA is expected to get a comment from St. Ange on Wedenesday.