Isdore Guvamombe, recently in Madrid, Spain
The best candidate lost! It was a very bad experience by any imagination and I understand why so many armchair theorists blindly jumped onto it, from their positions far, far and wide away from the field of play, not even the ringside.
Even the affable Man of God, Bishop Lazarus, had a long sermon on the election in the Sunday Mail. I am glad it was not a prophecy but a mere sermon. For now I will let sermons be sermons, for in the Christian realm, small flies like me are required never to question. I must just say Amen!
But it happens when it is man’s game.
In the aftermath of the Madrid debacle, I realised Dr Mzembi had as many people who liked him, as those who hated him both within and outside Government. That is expected too. But where is our nationalism? How do we celebrate our country’s loss on the international arena?
Does it not make us proud Africans to have our own holding fort on the international arena?
Like or hate him, the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, was by far the best candidate for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation top job. He lost it on a hodgepodge of factors that should be interrogated carefully before we jump into conclusion. In this instalment, I will give just a few.
The first one is that white skin ganged up against Dr Mzembi when the crucial moment came. Realising that he was leading at 11 votes and his nearest rival Georgia (who later won) at 8 points, then South Korea at 7 points, followed by Brazil at four point and finally Colombia on three points, white capitol ganged against black capitol. It was black Africa versus the greater part of the world.
The final result was a culmination of many situations and reasons. It will make me have enemies but the truth shall set me free.
Seychelles was the biggest spoilers. One reason or both Sadc and AU failed to rein in on the Indian Ocean island which fielded a candidate in breach of the regional bloc and the continent’s rules of engagement. They waited the last minute and by the time Seychelles candidate Allain St Ange withdrew it was too late. Europe had sponsored St Ange, by his own admission on BBC Hard Talk programme and he managed, unchecked, to spread the false messages that President Mugabe had arm-twisted AU to sponsor Dr Mzembi as the sole candidate. He campaigned and de-campaigned Zimbabwe, Sadc and African Union on that thread much to the chagrin and detriment of all progressive thinking Africans but pleasing Western Europe, until the last minute when his Government withdrew him. By then, the damage had already been done on that front. He was not a small factor because he represented all Islands in the world, for, their issues are the same. He also split the African vote. It was indeed not a small matter because St Ange is a white African, who immediately gained sympathy from all like skinned cdes.
He then used the Seychelles Government’s withdrawal of his candidature as further proof that Africa was undemocratic, dictatorial, hostile, combative and confrontational to white people, even white Africans. Everything became political and racial. Western Europe hand-held St Ange in Madrid, to reach out to all those of his skin colour and helped him cry victim. “I am being victimised for being a white African.” That got him sympathy to the point where history was made, albeit in an illegal way, when St Ange was strangely allowed to address the electorate minutes before the elections. He was not the only candidate that withdrew from the race, but strangely he was the only one who was allowed to withdraw. At no time in the history on the UWTO was a withdrawn candidate allowed to address the Electoral College, minutes before voting. Never! But it happened on St Ange who immediately earned the sobriquet ST Nonsense, among most of the African delegates. The antic to allow him to address was purely meant to destabilise Dr Mzembi’s chances.
Dr Mzembi and all the other candidates can actually lodge a complaint and cause a rerun of the election on that point at the UNWTO general Assembly in China in September before the new SG is confirmed. That is allowed and there are provisions for that in the UNWTO statutes.
Then there was the Morocco factor. Morocco did not like Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe was opposed to its readmission to the African Union, until it frees Saharawi. Soon after their admission back into AU we made it categorically clear that we were against their subjugation of Saharawi People’s Democratic Republic. In Madrid, they got the chance to revenge and it is not surprising that their close ally Tunisia and other Arab countries did not vote for us. Morocco is very, very influential.
UNWTO workers also played a big part in the election. Brazil and South Korea for instance, both candidates worked for UNWTO and they garnered 4 and 7 votes respectively, in the first round and when the second round came, they were afraid of Dr Mzembi’s change agent message. They were sceptical of losing their jobs to a change agent, that Dr Mzembi was largely portrayed. They feared the worst.
The Georgian candidate who won the election, was a very strange fellow who stole the election by buying his way. During the campaign streak, UNWTO arranged events where candidates gave their manifestos, but he never appeared. He ignored all those. His money did the campaign. While other candidates were addressing at UNWTO functions, his brown envelopes did the game.
Back home, Dr Mzembi ran the race for the greater part of his campaign almost alone, with piecemeal approach from his colleagues in Government. While he had a strong man in Ambassador Stewart Coumbabach on his side, the rest of his colleagues adopted a wait and see attitude.
There were issues with campaign money and on many occasions, Dr Mzembi’s delegation, this writer included, went into foreign land without a cent from the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, due alleged to delays from Treasury in releasing the travel money. The delegates had to scrounge around for cash from friends and well-wishers and live in squalid places while competing campaign teams stayed in executive hotels, where night meeting where held. You don’t find executive who vote at that level living in down market hotels.
On Many occasions, Treasury only released the travel allowances way after the team had returned home from a trip. Honestly? Really?
It was great sacrifice from the team. It was nationalism.
But at the end, we put up a brave fight. We lost but we did all we could with those meagre resources. To Me Dr Mzembi is a winner in his loss.