16 May 2017

Zimbabwe: UNWTO, Mzembi - He's Black African, Stupid!

Photo: The Herald
Zimbabwe's Tourism and Hospitality Minister, Walter Mzembi.

In January, Zimbabwe's Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, who was running for election to the post of United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general, raised a serious concern about the colour and geopolitics that play out at the supposedly multilateral institution of the United Nations.

He pointed out that people of colour coming from the Third World were unlikely to control or lead some of the specialised agencies of the United Nations.

The politics of race, according to him, was alive - a reminder of how imperfect the current system of world governance is in its deformed, institutionalised and skewed nature.

Mzembi was speaking within the context that a candidate from the Seychelles, an African island nation, had been sponsored to ghost into the race as a rival African candidate.

Africa, at the continental African Union and at the regional Sadc level, had already endorsed Mzembi as the sole African candidate.

Alain St Ange had allegedly been sponsored by Western countries to not only split the African vote but possibly be the alternative to Mzembi.

St Ange is white.

Mzembi was livid.

He told me in an interview: "He is very conscious of the fact that we have 10 votes as Africa, and we are pitting these against 10 European votes, five votes from the Americas, five votes from South Asia and the Pacific and three votes from the Middle East to make a total of 33 votes. "So, anyone who wants to get past us as Africa will try and split Africa's bloc votes of 10.

"This is essentially what they are doing in this instance. This approach is a zero-sum game for Africans because whoever emerges should never hope to win, we will both lose."

There was the sting. "What we are confronted with is our detractors competing with us for positions in multilateral systems, the United Nations itself included. It is a desire to exploit the ethnical make-up of Africa, which is made up of negroid Africa, white Africans and Afro-Asiatics," he charged.

"It is a very painful experience having to be discriminated against because you are negroid and picking white African candidates to basically split the African consensus," complained Dr Mzembi.

St Ange pulled out of the race at the 11th hour. We cannot ascertain the quantum of impact his ill-conceived challenge in the race was.

(We can confirm, though, that he pulled out reluctantly after being forced by his government and up to the very minute of the polls still wanted to run. He may have been forced out by his government which feared sanction by the AU for defying a resolution.)

Mzembi, meanwhile, had commandeered support and respect as Africa's man to the world. It is now public knowledge that he won the first round of elections, polling 11 votes against his closest rival and eventual winner, who got eight.

The Georgian - whatever his name for anyone that cares - won the second round with 18 to Mzembi's 15.

That was the end of the road, and this election may yet go down as one of the most closely fought battles in that arena.

And the best candidate lost. He lost because he is a black African, simple.

Walter Mzembi was the candidate of Sadc and Africa - and Africa's over one billion people - and we will not even attempt to address the facile claims by childish local opposition that he lost because he is Zanu-PF and lieutenant of President Mugabe.

Mzembi lost against a flawed, racist system calls for whose reform have been getting louder by the day.

Mzembi had anchored his campaign on a message of change and threatened to tilt the balance of power in the world of tourism towards the Third World. He was a threat to the status quo in this geopolitical matrix and multibillion-dollar industry.

He could not have been acceptable to a corrupt, systemic, racist machinery. We may need to further illustrate. UNWTO is one of the United Nations' 16 specialised agencies.

Others include the major ones such as International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Labour Organisation, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and World Health Organisations.

The headquarters of these key bodies are concentrated in Europe and America, making an axis that links Rome in Italy; Vienna, Austria; Geneva, Switzerland; London, New York and Quebec in Canada.

Our Walter would have had to stay in Madrid, Spain, for at least his next five years had he been allowed to win.

The pattern of the domiciles of these supposedly international multilateral institutions is not hard to pin on historical and global hegemonic ten- dencies.

The same agencies are run, including at the United Nations Secretary-General level, by people connected to these capitals, sometimes as direct clients.

Nobody remembers a Koffi Anan, the Ghanaian who was once Secretary General, for the simple reason that nothing of his personality, background and politics shine through.

The call for democratisation of the UN goes beyond the big politics of the Security Council. It cascades to the points of soft power such as agencies.

The world will look back and point out to the self-evident misallocation of power to a Georgian nobody cares to remember at the expense of the better suited, articulate and charismatic candidate whose only crime was that he came from Africa and that he was black.

These are obviously matters far greater than the politics of Zimbabwe, which some small-minded individuals, obviously lost to both the national interest and Africa's interest, are oblivious of.

And this would have been Zimbabwe's biggest diplomatic achievement, and the money and investment in one of the world's biggest industries would have followed.

The white race would have none of it. Dragging President Mugabe's name into it is a cheap and sickening effort to mask this naked racism.


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