This brought negative publicity to a positive event – a Zanu (PF) government minister throwing out and belittling an MDC-T Harare City councilor! A polarized nation exposing her seething, underlying hatred. Harare City fathers (read MDC-T) then castigated Mzembi (read Zanu (PF). Shall we blame the “Western, imperialist media” for this negative publicity?
A few days after the “mere councilor” debacle we had the Akon/Sean Paul “Real Deal” show as part of the ZTA perception management programme. Akon’s missed flight to Victoria Falls, the show’s poor organization, the ZTA’s lack of real support for local artists and ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke’s threats of a possible job loss to a Meikles Hotel manager got more prominent media coverage than the show itself. No Western, imperialist media there!
It is the local media which was questioning the effectiveness of the ZTA’s unpopular marketing concept of using foreign music “envoys” like Joe Thomas and Sizzla who have no business highlighting Zimbabwe’s virtues to the whole world. One wonders who is likely to visit Zimbabwe on the advice of a farm-seeking Sizzla except musicians of his ilk, ready to milk a foolishly generous ZTA. The media has the right to know and inform the reading public.
The truth is 31 years after independence we should be behaving like people who have finally outlived this shallow lie that Zimbabwe is under siege from foreign interests. Zimbabwe, if anything, is ensconced in a self-created rat race that the instigators have forgotten the formula for and now do not know how to stop.
Thirty-one years on there is no national tourism ethos. The tourism and hospitality sectors suffer more from this lack than from the so-called Western, imperialist-inspired “sanctions”, which are, in reality, nothing more than travel bans on Mugabe and his cronies. The verbal and body languages in the two industries have not changed. “Varungu havasi kuuya” (The whites are not coming) is still the fodder talk amongst Zimbabweans.
Tourism is still thought of and viewed as a white, elitist activity. Talk like ”maclients acho varungu here kana kuti vanhu vatema?” (are those clients white or black?) still reigns supreme in the sector. “Vanhu vatema vanonetsa” (black people cause problems) is still the attitude. Isn’t this worse than the touted sanctions, real or imagined?
It is even worse when the Zimbabwean black middle-class, which should know better, still believes, 31 years on, that only white tour operators offer an acceptable level of service delivery. Or that white tourists are better treated than their counterparts by black operators – “varungu munovabata zvakana” is an often-heard accusatory phrase.
Thirty-one years on these are the real issues that the national tourist organizations should be grappling with. We should have our own homegrown tourism ambassadors, not quickly-wooed foreign luminaries who have no business marketing Zimbabwe as a tourist destination of choice. Our own media, both public and private, should know our tourism ethos and espouse it.
We still have some racist operators, who call themselves “locals”, conduct “African village tours” and generally feed off Zimbabwe, yet they call it unsavoury names. What national tourism ethos is that? We might still have differences amongst ourselves, but to lose sight of the fact that we need a non-racial, harmonious and forward-looking Zimbabwe in order to progress is to dig our own national grave.
Do we need a minister and official of his ministry fighting over the appropriateness of the sexual behavior of a beauty queen? Should Karikoga Kaseke threaten to resign over that? Should an obscure organization like Vapfumi Kuvadiki invade Lake Chivero properties, or any other property, for that matter?
So, as we celebrate another World Tourism Day let us bear in mind that it is not all rosy, yet. We still have minds to liberate. Our own minds. We are a nation of subtle racists, some wittingly so, others ignorantly so. Is that our national tourism ethos? – The writer is a managing consultant of a registered and licenced Incentive Travel organizer with special interest in Kariba and the Zambezi Valley areas. Interact with him on: [email protected]Post published in: Opinions & Analysis