Zanzibar — THE government of Zanzibar has allayed fears in connection with possible attacks on tourists, investors and visitors, saying that the islands are safe.
The Minister for Information, Tourism and Culture, Mr Said Ali Mbarouk, said here that Zanzibar remains a safe place for tourists, investors and visitors.
The minister added that some of the incidents reported by the media had been exaggerated painting a wrong picture that the islands were a dangerous spot for visitors. "This is incorrect information. In fact the islands are peaceful and safe," he said.
Mr Mbarouk was speaking in response to recent media reports about the murder of Roman Catholic Church Priest Evarist Mushi, and attacks on a church. Recently, Priest Mushi was gunned down by unknown people when he was heading for a church to lead a mass.
Last Saturday, unknown people attacked to death Islamic Imam Ali Khamis Ali. Last year, another priest, Father Ambrose Mkenda, and Muslim Cleric Sheikh Mussa Fadhili Soraga narrowly escaped death when they were attacked by unknown people.
"This is a misfortune on all counts, especially for the priest's family, and the Christian community. But from the perspective of visitor safety, and in comparison with other parts of the World, Zanzibar still is and will continue to be a safe destination for travellers from around the world," said Mbarouk.
He added: "The situation in Zanzibar is not as bad as some media houses are trying to show. Crime is always a challenge and it can have some impact on the tourism and investments but the government is keen on controlling it."
The minister said that there was round-the-clock surveillance by police and security organs and that Zanzibar is committed to working with the relevant national and international bodies in combating any act of violence to ensure the safety of people, visitors, investors, and their properties.
Mr Said noted that enemies of Zanzibar were using recent incidents to taint the good image of the Islands. "Our competitors in tourism use the recent incidents to paint negative image of Zanzibar in order to win the markets. In fact, Zanzibar has never had social and religious violence," the minister stressed.
The average number of tourists who visit Zanzibar is close to 150,000 annually. Tourism has become a major driver of the Zanzibar economy, achieving an average growth rate of 6.8 per cent yearly. The sector has increased its share of Growth Domestic Product (GDP) from single digit in 2004 to just over 27 per cent in 2012.
Meanwhile, Zanzibar First Vice-President Seif Sharif Hamad has warned Christians and Muslims in Zanzibar not to allow to be divided by bad people who have a 'hidden agenda' on Zanzibar. Without naming any person or group, he said it was obvious that some people perceived the current crime in Zanzibar as an opportunity to divide people religiously.
He said that it was unfortunate that some media are being used in the evil foray. These media houses parade frightening news, he said. "It is bad that we have lost a priest. Let us join hands with the police in the hunt for the killers.
"But this should not in anyway be propagated that Christians and Muslims in Zanzibar are in conflict or that there are terrorists in Zanzibar," Hamad said. He was speaking at Mjini- Kiuyu, Wete in Pemba, where Muslims gathered to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Peace-Be-Upon Him).
He urged Journalists and the media generally to use their profession well with the focus on promoting unity and avoiding divisive language. "There have been a number of criminal acts in Tanzania Mainland including the killings of police and religious leaders, but the media have not linked the incidents with terrorism.