Zim to host bush UNWTO conference


HARARE – Zimbabwe is set to host a “unique” United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) conference in the bush as government is struggling to avail funds to bankroll the programme’s preparations.

Walter Mzembi, Tourism minister told reporters last week after meeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that the country is set to host the “unique” conference “under stars” because dignitaries want just that — because it is Africa.

Having failed to build a legacy conferencing facility which government ministers including Mzembi envisaged, Zimbabwe has now opted for the easy route of going to the bush.

Notwithstanding the bush route, which will certainly be cheaper, the country still needs a massive $11 million to speed up preparations for the UNTWO conference that is slated for August.

Meanwhile a referendum and then an election are the priority for a government whose Finance minister Tendai Biti has rattled the international community after declaring that the country has less than $300 in its bank account.

Mzembi, who had to defend Biti’s statements in Spain, said government ministers should not make such reckless statements that may jettison the country’s chances of hosting the craved-for event.

“Our aspirations were to plant a legacy conference facility in the same manner that we built the Sheraton for the Commonwealth meeting, but that does not stop the UNTWO. They (dignitaries) are looking for the Africanness and the dinner will be held under the stars overlooking the bridge,” said Mzembi.

While Zimbabwe is struggling with financing the programme — co-hosts Zambia are at an advanced stage.
Mzembi says his Zambian counterpart has already received $20 million to prepare for the programme.

Mzembi, who expressed concern with Biti’s statements which for a moment threatened the country’s chances of hosting the event as the UNTWO queried whether such a bankrupt government would have the capacity to host the world, said he “envisages a bush party”.

“I envisage a bush party for the delegates. When you are in Africa you must go to the bush and that is what we are looking at,” said Mzembi.

Zimbabwe hosts the world for the first time since the Commonwealth conference that was held in 1992 and Mzembi says the country has no better opportunity to push the country’s brand at the conference that will be held in August.

Sympathetic countries like Senegal have promised to help struggling Zimbabwe, not with money but with their top musicians.

Malian superstar Salif Keita, Senegalese crooner Ismael Lo and South African legendary musician Hugh Masekela will, according to Mzembi, headline the cast of international acts who will spice up the bush event.

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