Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe may be under a European travel ban because of human rights abuses and preside over a country that is a dangerous, economic basketcase but he is still going to be appointed a special tourism ambassador by the United Nations.
The honour of being appointed International Tourism Ambassador — Zambian president Michael Sata is also receiving the title — is being bestowed by the United Nations World Tourism Office (UNWTO). The honours follow the news that Zimbabwe and Zambia are jointly holding the UNWTO General Assembly next year.
The Zimbabwe Herald quoted Walter Mzembi, the tourism and hospitality industry minister, as saying that the two presidents had shown that tourism was critical to the development of Africa by naming it one of the “four pillars” of economic development.
“It is this recognition that has made UNWTO confer this status on them,’’ said Mr. Mzembi.
Mr. Mugabe has been in power for more than three decades and has been blamed for the economic ruin of a country that was once hailed the breadbasket of Africa.
His forced seizure of white-owned commercial farms led to sharp falls in production and precipitated the collapse of the agriculture-based economy. The country has rampant inflation, food and fuel shortages, high poverty and unemployment (the CIA Factbook lists unemployment at 95% for the latest year, 2008.) It has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world.
Mr. Mugabe is also the subject of a European travel ban because of allegations of human rights abuses.
The Canadian and U.S. governments both have issued advisories warning about the dangers of travelling in the country.
Canada says of the conditions in Zimbabwe, “Whilst the level of inflation has significantly been reduced over the last few months with the dollarization of the economy, the country is still suffering long standing hyperinflation side effects, generalized unemployment, food shortages and a cholera epidemic. While under control, the outbreak still presents health risks from cross-contamination and has killed thousands of people.”
And it warns tourists, “Travellers are advised to be extremely vigilant and avoid large crowds and public gatherings. The situation could deteriorate on short notice. Canadians in Zimbabwe should evaluate carefully the implications for their security and safety.
“As roadblocks can be erected anywhere without notice, Canadians should drive carefully and be very cooperative at all times. Residents and visitors could be subject of arbitrary detention or arrest and should have their travel documents (passport, visas and vehicle police clearance certificate) with them at all times. Canadians should take special care when travelling after dark.”
The Canadian government says tourists should avoid “low income districts” in urban areas such as Harare and Bulawayo and that “street crime, such as muggings, house robberies, passport theft, car-jackings, pickpocketing, and purse snatching are common.”
The U.S. State Department says, “U.S. citizen visitors have been detained under suspicion of operating as journalists without accreditation for photographing cultural sites and areas that may not immediately appear to be sensitive.
“Tourists may also be subject to harassment or arrest for photographing police, roadblocks, occupied commercial farms, and government buildings or military installations, official residences or embassies, including the president’s palace.
“It is not always immediately apparent what the police deem sensitive. They have detained U.S. citizens for hours for photographing such seemingly innocuous subjects as fruit carts and religious buildings such as churches, mosques, and synagogues. You should be very aware of your surroundings before taking any pictures outside game parks and known tourist areas.”
Read @the National Post