EU tourism council criticised for praising Mugabe and ZANU PF

EU tourism ministers

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
7 May 2014

The European Union (EU) tourism council has awarded Zimbabwe for being the ‘best’ tourism destination of 2014, praising both ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe for turning the local industry into a “well managed powerhouse.”

The General Assembly of the Bucharest based European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) announced this week that Zimbabwe was to be awarded the World Best Tourism Destination Award for 2014. The EU group also declared Zimbabwe the Favourite Cultural Destination in 2014.

The council cited the preservation of the country’s natural wonders, advances in ecotourism and the successful hosting of last year’s UN World Tourism conference in Victoria Falls, as the reasons for the award.

The council, which also named ZANU PF Minister Walter Mzembi in its praise of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, said in a statement that the award will be presented to Mugabe in Harare, calling him “the most outstanding personality of today Africa.”

The EU group is now facing criticism for praising ZANU PF and Mugabe, despite the regime being accused of undermining efforts to turn the country’s tourism potential into a real success.

Johnny Rodrigues, the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) slammed the tourism award as “a joke.”

“It’s just one hell of a big joke when everything is in turmoil. Even at the UN conference, they transported animals to the area from a different area, and it was just a false picture. It’s not like that in reality,” Rodrigues said.

He added: “It’s frustrating because (Zimbabwe) is supposed to be the jewel of Africa, but it’s not. There’s so much false propaganda that goes with this and it’s not showing the true picture of what has actually happened.”

The UN faced international condemnation for allowing Zimbabwe to host the Tourism conference, just weeks after a highly disputed election saw ZANU PF reclaim power.

Rose Benton, from the London based protest group the Zimbabwe Vigil, said on Wednesday that the EU’s tourism award was likely part of ongoing efforts by Brussels to re-engage with ZANU PF. She told SW Radio Africa that the tourism council was “sanctioning an illegal government.”

“It is rather sickening that they are praising ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe in this way, especially since Mugabe is responsible for so much hardship of Zimbabwe’s people,” Benton told SW Radio Africa.

Tourism and conservation efforts in the country meanwhile are being undermined by numerous issues, including the takeover of conservation land by ZANU PF officials and an ongoing poaching crisis. The situation that has since seen the US wildlife authority issue a ban on the import of hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, with the unlawful allocation of hunting licenses, questionable management practices and a lack of effective law enforcement, being pegged as the major factor in this decision.

National Parks in 2012 issued hunting permits to 25 so-called indigenous ‘farmers’ who were given land in the wildlife-rich Save Valley Conservancy. This was said to be part of the government’s ‘wildlife based land reform’ exercise, saying beneficiaries have been allocated 25-year land leases in conservancies throughout the Masvingo province.

The trophy ban also comes of the back of the poaching crisis that hit Hwange National Park last year, where hundreds of elephants were killed by poachers using the deadly cyanide chemical. At the same time, there is a fresh threat to Zimbabwe’s protected Presidential Elephant Herd, following the takeover of a piece of land in Hwange that serves as the herd’s home range.

That takeover defies a Cabinet directive from last year that the land was ‘state owned’ and all offer letters for it must be withdrawn. Conservation groups meanwhile have raised concern for the safety of the Presidential elephants, because the woman who has claimed the land is related to a local hunting operator.

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2 Responsesto “EU tourism council criticised for praising Mugabe and ZANU PF”

  1. Zim Source says:

    Status Update
    By The Amalinda Collection
    Alan Elliott posted to Sharon Stead
    April 30
    I have some history with The Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe and am perhaps qualified to bring a little truth and reality to the situation. The rumour of the imminent destruction of the “Presidential Elephants” is simply not true. It would hardly warrant a retort but for the widespread negative publicity generated by an individual for personal reasons.

    I started work on habituating the original group of about a dozen petrified elephants in 1974 in the vicinity of the Hwange Safari Lodge. This was not my work alone. Sixteen years later, concerned for the long-term future of this now larger and habituated herd I approached the President to bestow his patronage and unique protection upon these elephants and this he agreed to do.

    Despite the fact that the home-range of these elephants is some 180 square kilometres,the status of Kanondo has also been brought into question recently. Historically, my former Company, Touch the Wild operated various small lodges in the area of the Hwange Estate, one of which was at Kanondo. The camp site at Kanondo is not new and it was not acquired in a “land grab” as recently alleged. Kanondo is on State Land and since 1972 has been leased to private enterprise for photographic safaris. It is illogical that rumours should now be spread that the Presidential Elephants will be hunted into extinction merely because the abandoned Kanondo camp is being resuscitated. Neither is it true that the elephants will be affected in any way by the presence of a safari camp. In fact, in my experience they seemed to spend many hours contentedly resting in the vicinity of our old camp and I am sure they will continue to do so. Equally there is no truth that the concept of conservation project is being destroyed by government officials. I would like to assure concerned conservationists that the Presidential Elephants do not face an imminent hail of gunfire, or in fact, any change to their prosperity. Nevertheless, as we have seen before with rhino, elephants and other species their safety is not automatic. Colleagues on the ground, will, as ever, be vigilant and the well-being of all resident wildlife will be closely monitored.

    I hope that concerned conservationists and elephant lovers from around the world will feel re-assured. The Presidential Elephants are flourishing. It is said “seeing is believing” and I urge you to visit the area to see for yourselves and to “rub shoulders” with these amazing Zimbabwean ambassadors.

    Of concern, and separate from the Kanondo debate, is the recently reported issue of a hunting quota to a neighbouring landholder to hunt one elephant, inevitably part of the Presidential elephant group, on the Dete vlei. Moves are now afoot to extend the whole range of the Presidential elephants under the protective umbrella of the President. Again, we are confident of the highest support.

    ALAN ELLIOTT

  2. Francis says:

    The question is if the ECTT members in charge were simply drunk or are just corrupt. I guess the latter is more plausible. Maybe a few blood diamonds from Zimbabwe (Yes, the Kimberley decision is about as ridiculous as the ECTT’s)?

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