Tea with Mugabe, ma’am?

Minister wants Queen to visit Zimbabwe for a cuppa to help boost tourism

Robert Mugabe

The Zimbabwean minister for tourism has unveiled a blueprint for putting the country on the travel map, including a  proposal that The Queen and Robert Mugabe should sit down for tea together.

Walter Mzembi, a member of Mugabe’s Zanu PF ruling party for eight years, says that there remains “so much love” between the two heads of state and that either London or Harare would be a fine venue for a “get-together for a cup of tea”.

“[The UK and Zimbabwe] are so much in love with each other. [There has been] some kind of love-hate relationship born out of a family feud,” the Zimbabwean minister said.

Relations between the UK and the African nation have been strained for years, with the British Government taking a dim view of the rule, beset by corruption and human rights abuses, of the country’s ageing president, and Mugabe in turn accusing the UK of interfering in its former colony.

But Mzembi, speaking to Telegraph Travel at the Zimbabwean embassy on the Strand in London as part of his campaign to be elected head of the World Tourism Organisation, the UN’s travel body, said Zimbabwe remains a “home from home” for the British, adding that the UK’s fondness for Zim is vital to the country’s tourism sector. Britain is Zimbabwe’s largest European holiday market, with travellers drawn to impressive natural features such as the mighty Zambezi, Victoria Falls and a national park the size of Wales.

Accordingly, the tourism minister is keen to see a return of direct flights between the UK and Zimbabwe.

“I have always looked forward to a day when the British make the decision to come back directly to Zimbabwe,” he said, adding that though Britons must fly via Ethiopia or South Africa, the country’s new £120million Victoria Falls airport, opened in November, was “the biggest gamechanger to Zimbabwean and regional tourism”.

He spoke proudly of Zimbabwe’s international appeal.

“Our chief product in Zimbabwe is peace and stability,” said Mzembi. “It doesn’t matter where the location of a wonder of the world, if it is in a conflict zone nobody will visit.

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