HARARE – Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has alleged that Finance minister Tendai Biti is refusing to fund the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly because of “glory politics”.
Zimbabwe and its neighbouring southern African country Zambia will co-host the UNWTO’s general assembly in Victoria Falls in August expected to be attended by over 2 000 people.
But Biti — who had earlier promised to allocate $6 million to finance the preparations — has now made a volte-face claiming there is no money given other competing interests such as the elections and referendum.
A fuming Mzembi says Biti, who is also the MDC secretary general, is refusing to bankroll the project
because it will give mileage to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.
“The problem with this country is glory politics,” the Zanu PF minister told the Daily News.
“If people think a project is raising the brand equity of a particular person and party, they will flog it to death. And in this instance, that’s what I am reading that we have a lot of brand politics at play, a lot of glory politics at play,” said Mzembi in comments that show how the coalition is hostage to political interests.
The swaggering minister said there was a lot of misunderstanding on the nature and character of the UNWTO project and potential spin-offs.
“It is not about Mzembi, it is not about my party Zanu PF,” he said.
“It is about national interests. What we are really raising and elevating is brand Zimbabwe and it is brand Zimbabwe which we seek to raise its equity. And if anybody sees me in that project its only because I am currently the minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
“And the president decided to give the project the national character that it deserves by signing a trilateral agreement with the UNWTO and Zambian president Michael Sata and we must take it for what it is, a national project, and an international project for that matter,” said Mzembi.
But Biti now says there is no money for the crucial conference.
“If we cannot fund an election, what more a hotel?” Biti queried.
“In terms of legacy infrastructure, the government cannot do it but the private sector can.”
Mzembi said the competing interests to fund the forthcoming poll “cannot be present to an extent where they obliterate your vision of a project that visits you once after every 300 years.”
Mzembi said it was absurd for Biti to claim there is no money when he managed to raise $60 million for the referendum in a short space of time.
Asked if the UNWTO is going ahead given the financial challenges, Mzembi said: “The general assembly will be held but the pitch will be different. The pitch we envisaged was of a world class general assembly in the order of the Rio+20, the ITU in Geneva, all those are specialised general assembly meetings.” – Gift Phiri, Political Editor