Mzembi speaks on UNWTO loss

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi has said the Zimbabwean brand emerged the major victor in the race for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general’s post, despite his loss by two votes to a Georgian candidate yesterday.

Africa’s hope to have the first ever secretary-general to run the UNWTO since it’s inception in 1975, went up in smoke when African Union-sponsored Dr Mzembi lost to Mr Zurab Pololikashvilli.

Dr Mzembi led the first round with 11 votes, followed by Mr Pololikashvilli (8), Mr Márcio Favilla of Brazil (4), Colombia’s Mr Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente (3), while the only female candidate, Republic of Korea Ambassador Young-Shim Dho got 7.

Although leading by three votes in the first round, Dr Mzembi failed to garner 17 mandatory votes required to give him an outright majority and avoid the second round.

According to UNWTO election statutes, top two candidates go into a second round if there is no outright winner, vote pitting Dr Mzembi and Mr Pololikashvilli.

In a brief interview after the election, Dr Mzembi conceded defeat and said he was prepared to work with Mr Pololikashvilli.

“It was a narrow loss,” he said.

“But it is the brand Zimbabwe and brand Africa that proved that it is seeking a bigger stake in the world.

“The election loss should not be seen as the end of everything. The bigger picture is our brand that we have upped through the campaign. Zimbabwe and Africa have never been this high in the matrix of world tourism and you can see the interest it has attracted. There has never been such interest on UNWTO elections.

“We should show goodwill and accept the result. We fell short by two votes. That was a good fight.”

In a post election press briefing, outgoing UNWTO secretary general Dr Talib Rifai said he was satisfied with the electoral process, but urged Mr Pololikashvilli to continue uniting the world tourism family.

“In the first round there were two leading candidates, Zimbabwe and Georgia with 11 votes for Zimbabwe and 8 for Georgia,” he said. “We had to go for second round as per our rules. Things changed there with Georgia getting 18 and 15 for Zimbabwe.

“Anyone of the candidates who would have got 17 votes would have won. I leave this organisation happy that elections were held in a democratic and transparent manner.

“A’m delighted that the process went smoothly and correctly. It was a credible process. My only wish is for the new SG to unite people.”

There are 33 member States in the UNWTO executive council, which constitute the electoral college, of which 10 are from Africa, Europe 10, Middle East three, South Asia two, Americas five and East Asia three.

Spokesperson of the Zimbabwe campaign team, Ambassador Rudo Chitiga, said the country and the continent were devastated by Dr Mzembi’s loss.

“I am thoroughly disappointed,” she said. “Dr Mzembi put up a good show. It was a good campaign. But we are devastated. He did fight a good fight. I am proud of this campaign and the team.

“In fact, African ministers of tourism have been reflecting and saying we must do more.”

UNWTO is one of the 17 specialised United Nations organs and is equivalent to other organs such as the World Health Organisation.

Since it’s inception in 1975, it has not been run by an African and the continent had hoped that all other regions would give it a chance through Dr Mzembi.

Although Dr Mzembi was arguably the best candidate for the job, once he failed to garner an outright majority, Europe ganged up against him. – Herald

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