GOVERNMENT has formed a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Corporate Resources Mobilisation Trust to bolster shaky preparations for the conference which have been hit by serious funding problems as Treasury has failed to release the promised US$6,5 million to finance the event scheduled for August 24 – 29 at Victoria Falls.
UNWTO general assembly preparations have been rocked by internal government divisions with Tourism minister Walter Mzembi reportedly at loggerheads with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke over fundraising and logistical issues.
The two’s clashes have triggered widespread accusations part of the US$2,5 million Mbada Diamonds has pledged for funding might have been diverted for other purposes.
Mbada Diamonds has promised US$2,5 million to fund conference. It will pay for the opening ceremony and the official welcome dinner at Victoria Falls Hotel. The company has so far released US$600 000.
However, disbursement of funds was temporarily suspended owing to internal government conflicts although the issue has since been resolved.
According to well-placed sources, police had started investigations into the issue but meetings between Mzembi and President Robert Mugabe and Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri cleared the matter as no funds were abused.
This resulted in the President’s Office writing to Mbada Diamonds last month “clearing the air” on the issue.
On March 18, deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, retired Colonel Christian Katsande, wrote a letter to Mbada chief executive Patience Khumalo informing her the issue was resolved.
The letter also announced the inclusion of an inter-ministerial committee in the Corporates Resources Mobilisation Trust (CRMT) aimed at assisting the necessary mobilisation of resources for the hosting of the UNWTO general assembly.
Katsande’s letter said government had resolved the CRMT stands as was originally conceptualised by Mzembi with its members comprising Herbert Nkala as chairman, Susanna Kuhudzayi, Obadiah Mazombwe, Obert Francis Munyaradzi and Wendy Chingeya Mandizira, among others.
“This Trust has been enlarged and will henceforth carry representatives from the inter-ministerial committee, and government has since seconded Dr Judith Kateera, permanent secretary in the Vice President’s office and Mrs Margaret Sangarwe, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, as trustees, in addition to the minister’s own appointees,” reads the letter.
“The trust deed, with an enlarged board of trustees has since been lodged; some members will represent interests of the private sector. The trust will retain Africa Conventions, represented by Mr Aaron Mushoriwa and Susan Makombe as fund managers and ex-officio board members of the trust.”
Government said the authority to leverage use of the UNWTO logo and the associated brand collateral remains reposed in Mzembi as per UNWTO statutes.
“The minister will invite interested corporates shortly to complete the requisite paperwork for submission to the UNWTO. In the meantime, we hope the above clears the air for Mbada Diamonds to continue its collaboration with the ministry and its fund managers as originally envisaged,” the letter reads.
The objectives of the reviewed CRMT as stated in the revised UNWTO Deed of Donation and Trust are to oversee the management of resources mobilised by the consultants appointed by the minister “for purposes of resource mobilisation to assist the funding of preparations” for and hosting of the UNWTO summit to be jointly hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The CRMT would work to assist in the raising of awareness of the summit and its potential benefits to the tourism industry, communities as well as the economy in general.
Minister extends begging bowl to diplomats
TOURISM minister Walter Mzembi has extended his begging bowl to Harare-based foreign diplomats in an effort to raise enough money to fund the co-hosting of the upcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly.
Mzembi last week met more than 40 diplomats and heads of specialised agencies accredited to Zimbabwe to seek financial, material, moral and technical support to make the global premier tourism event between August 24 and 29 in Victoria Falls a “uniquely African experience”.
Most African diplomats present at the meeting pledged support leaving Mzembi relieved.
“China has already confirmed it will be providing a state-of-the-art PA system for the event while Senegal and Nigeria said they will be sponsoring their big artistes to perform,” said Mzembi.
Mzembi said about 1 200 hectares of prime virgin land would be set aside for potential investors in a bid to modernise Victoria Falls town.
Representatives from the Egyptian embassy pledged their support for the event citing the resumption of flights to Harare by EgyptAir as evidence of their commitment to help Zimbabwe.
The tourism ministry needs about US$12 million to fund the event at which about 4 000 delegates are expected.
Government promised US$6,5 million but Treasury has not released the money due to financial constraints. Mzembi has now resorted to corporate funding.
Mzembi also hinted government infighting was threatening the smooth preparations of the conference.
“What would be critical though is that like what happens in your own democracies, you budget for our differences, in as much as they are a source of potential derivation of travel warnings. Package them for what they are to your governments, that is, for debate, campaigning or positioning,” he said.
“After all is said and done, notwithstanding elections, we all look back and say we are Zimbabweans first and foremost and politicians second. The national interest and identity is supreme,” said Mzembi.
Mzembi said Zimbabwe was ready to host the UNWTO event and Air Zimbabwe (AirZim) is expected to increase domestic flight frequency and carry visitors to Victoria Falls.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport Munesu Munodawafa said AirZim would have daily flights to Victoria Falls by May and introduce flights from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, as well as direct flights from Harare to Victoria Falls by the time the general assembly is held.
“By that time, I am 99% sure we will have added new aircraft to our current fleet,” Munodawafa said.
He said work on the Victoria Falls runway would resume next week and would be completed in time for the mega event.
A joint Zimbabwe-Zambia website would be set up to provide updates and other information pertaining to the UNWTO summit.