The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) made an important step change on the recruitment drive to fill its top vacancy. During the hunt for a new chief executive officer (CEO) to replace Karikoga Kaseke, who retired on health grounds last year, the ZTA board of directors opted to move away from tradition. They pursued an open and seemingly transparent recruitment process, which ended with 42 applications that have since been trimmed to three.
This was an important step towards bringing sanity to the ZTA.
Before this, the ZTA relied on government appointees to take charge of its operations.
But hindsight teaches us that in most cases, State appointments are politically motivated. There is no merit in these transfers from ministries to agencies like the ZTA, as such appointees mostly come to guard the interests of their bosses. The results are there for everyone to see. State firms contributed 40% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1990s, before corruption decimated their balance sheets, pushing them to the brink.
Today, Zimbabwe has more such firms, but their contribution to GDP plummeted to 12% in 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance.
This is no small battering, but it all boils down to theft and abuse.
Over the years, the ZTA relapsed into another charade, as mismanagement held it back from carrying out its important function of carrying out its marketing campaigns, along with drumming up foreign direct investment into the industry.
Under former tourism ministers, it was demonstrated that apart from these important roles, the ZTA could be a big catalyst to propping up Zimbabwe’s foreign policy.
This is why the step taken by the ZTA board is important.
Still, the regime has demonstrated that it can easily interfere and drive the process in the direction that it requires.
If this happens, we may see another protégé of the elites taking over, again, to guard their interests in the tourism sector, and even drive looting. If this happens, it would be easy to see that Zimbabwe is going nowhere, and the ZTA is doomed.
Professionalism had returned to the ZTA under acting-CEO Givemore Chidzidzi, who succeeded, in only a few months, to stem the scourge of controversy. The ZTA was no longer all over the place.
It has been charting a new trajectory, which is what the new substantive CEO must advance.
The tourism industry has been punching below its weight for many years, partly because of haphazard destination management campaigns, along with lack of proper strategy and planning.
An amount of US$3 billion in annual revenues from the industry could be too little considering the vast attractions that Zimbabwe’s endowed with. And employment levels of about 100 000 still lag behind the industry’s full potential, as indicated by former Tourism minister Walter Mzembi.
With proper planning and sustainable marketing, the industry could employ as many as 400 000 workers and generate up to US$5 billion for the country annually.