By Isdore Guvamombe, Kudakwashe Mhundwa and Talent Hwari
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi’s campaign for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary-general’s post got a last-minute boost yesterday when Seychelles withdrew its candidate, Mr Allain St Ange. This left Dr Mzembi as the sole candidate from Africa. Elections to replace Dr Talib Rifai are slated for tomorrow.
Dr Mzembi will now battle it out with five other candidates for the world’s biggest tourism post.
Until yesterday, Seychelles had been running a parallel campaign for its candidate in contravention of African Union statutes on international postings, earning itself the tag of a spoiler whose attitude was to split the African vote.
A united Africa can give Dr Mzembi 33 percent of the vote out of the 50 plus one votes required to secure a straight first round win. Seychelles President Mr Danny Faure on Tuesday ordered his Government to withdraw the candidature of Mr St Ange, citing an imminent breach of AU statutes, which could attract five years suspension from international posting.
“President Danny Faure chaired an extraordinary Cabinet meeting at which the Cabinet considered a formal request from the African Union Commission for Seychelles to withdraw the candidature of Mr Allain St Ange for election of the post of secretary-general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation,” the government of Seychelles said in a statement.
“Having considered the stance taken by Seychelles at SADC meeting in March 2016, and the AU meeting of July 2016, member-states, including Seychelles, unanimously voted to support the Zimbabwean candidate. Cabinet ministers formerly reviewed its decision to support the candidature of Mr St Ange.
“This is in line with established practices governing the endorsement process for candidatures within the international system under the AU and Sadc framework. Mr St Ange’s capacity to lead the UNWTO is unquestionable as he has vast experience in the field of tourism.
“However, in light of our standing responsibilities and commitments, within the context of the African Union, the Seychelles Government has decided to withdraw the candidature of Mr St Ange from the post of secretary-general.”
Dr Mzembi is largely tipped to win the post after two years of rigorous campaigning, which made him a largely accepted figure.
AU Permanent Observer in Geneva Ambassador Jean-Marie Ehouzou said in an interview that the Seychelles story had been resolved and that Dr Mzembi remained the only AU candidate.
“Africa now has one candidate,” he said. “The Seychelles issue has been solved. We are confident we are going to win with Dr Mzembi. It is doable. We can do it.”
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Fra-nce, Spain and Portugal, who is also the spokesperson on the campaign team, Rudo Chitiga, said Zimbabwe had done everything in its power to execute a powerful diplomatic offensive for the UNWTO campaign.
“We have done all we can and we are sure we have done all that is required and we are confident,” she said. “As diplomats we have talked to all we can to negotiate for votes for Dr Mzembi.”
Addressing the media in Harare yesterday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Anastasia Ndlovu said the move by the AU to field a single candidate was a positive development to both the continent and Zimbabwe.
“I am happy to share with the nation that following a formal request from the AU, Seychelles has withdrawn its candidature for the race and endorsed Zimbabwe’s candidature,” said Deputy Minister Ndlovu.
“That is a positive development which shows the commitment of the AU to protect and defend resolutions of the same board.
“It is also important to applaud the stance taken by Seychelles as it seeks to respect resolutions of the AU which it was party to in the first place. I am happy to share that Africa is solidly behind our candidate.”
Deputy Minister Ndlovu said Zimbabwe was on the eve of making history.
“Our campaign has been vigorous and very good,” she said, adding that, “Our chances for getting the position have become even higher.”
Deputy Minister Ndlovu said as part of the final push in the campaign, she led a delegation to Slovakia lobbying for support since that country was also a member of the UNWTO executive council.
In July last year, Dr Mzembi was officially named Africa’s candidate for the UNWTO top post, having been endorsed by an African Heads of State and Government summit in Kigali, Rwanda after going through all bureaucratic processes of the 54 member organisation unopposed.