Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, a cock is seen the day it is hatched. Dr Walter Mzembi, the longest serving Minister of Tourism in the world, this week takes his campaign to clinch the United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary general’s post to the African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
Dr Mzembi, who joined the family soon after his appointment as Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry in February 2009, is seeking to succeed the incumbent Dr Talib Rifai, whose term of office expires in 2017.
The bid to get endorsement from AU comes at a time when the Government and SADC have endorsed Dr Mzembi as the candidate for the top job.
The UNWTO is the world’s biggest authentic travel and tourism body and is equivalent, in terms of UN statutes, to the World Health Organisation.
Dr Mzembi has since his entrance to the UNWTO become a vital cog in the engine of the world tourism body, where he has sat, through and through, firstly as a member of its executive council and then as the chairperson of the African Commission on Tourism. And, he still occupies the latter.
The Zimbabwean minister is revered as a workaholic, whose oratory skills have made him a much sought after speaker locally and internationally.
In the world tourism board, Dr Mzembi is seen as a database of institutional memory who occupies a very special space in terms of strategic thinking and unifying stakeholders in the vast tourism family.
At the time of his first appointment as Zimbabwe’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister in 2009, Zimbabwe had been placed under travel bans and warnings from Europe and had been suspended from the UNWTO family, but Dr Mzembi quickly turned the tables and even managed to have the world family to grant Zimbabwe the right to co-host, with Zambia, the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly. This was against huge odds.
So far, Mzembi is the best candidate for UNWTO top job given his experience, his institutional memory, his long service and indeed his accommodative nature in all matters of the organisation.
It would be a waste of time to try and talk about Dr Mzembi’s educational qualifications as he over-qualifies for the job, if ever there is such diction.
This week, Zimbabwe will seek to have the endorsement of the African Union, alongside the 27th AU Summit slated for Kigali, Rwanda.
Zimbabwe will be proud to clinch the top UN job as it gives this country, forever endowed with a buffet of tourist attractions (sired by natural phenomena or man-made) the leverage to develop, promote and market these attractions at the highest level.
His win will be a win for Africa, which will look up to him for his highly rated vision and strategic thinking to promote the continent its share of tourism which stands at less than 5 percent. Africa has the tourist attractions but has not been getting the deserved corresponding figures in terms of tourist arrivals, hence the need for new thinking.
In general, it is agreed that this is time for Africa. It is time for Africa to lead the world tourism organisation and indeed to turn around its tourism fortunes.
There is no doubt that Dr Mzembi represents the ethos, the values, the thinking and the image of visionary young Africans who want to see the continent grow, and get what it deserves as a tourism hub.
In terms of natural attractions, Africa outbids many continents but in terms of benefiting from its vast natural attractions from Victoria Falls to the beaches of north, east and West Africa, to the roaming wildlife and the jungles of central Africa, the continent has lagged behind.
It is therefore time for Africa. It is our time.
Dr Mzembi is the best candidate for the UNWTO secretary general.