9 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Germany Threatens Boycott of Tourism Conference

Germany has threatened to boycott the planned UN World Tourism Office (UNWTO) conference, set to take place in Victoria Falls later this year, because of Zimbabwe's failure to honour foreign investment agreements.

Addressing journalists at his offices in Harare on Wednesday, German Ambassador Hans-Günter Gnodtke said he failed to get any help from Zim government officials, who he approached about the invasion of German owned properties. Such properties are meant to be protected by a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between Germany and Zimbabwe, but Zimbabwe has refused to honour this or any other BIPPA it has signed.

The Ambassador was particularly concerned about the German concessions at the Save Valley Conservancy, which was invaded by a group of ZANU PF members last year. The Ambassador warned that boycotting the UN tourism conference in August was being mulled over as a possible reaction to this.

"We have not yet made our decision if and at what level to participate on that conference, if (there are) elements wishing to destroy wildlife and tourism infrastructure in Zimbabwe protected by international BIPPAs. If they should succeed, this will seriously affect Zimbabwe's qualification to host an international meeting on tourism," he said.

The situation at the Save Valley has calmed down after the intervention of Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi. However, the hosting of the meeting comes as there are plans underway to start mining exploration at Mana Pools, despite the area being a UN protected Heritage site. This, as well as ongoing problems with poaching, land invasions and other issues, are all being used as key examples why the UN should not host the conference in Zimbabwe.

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