Mzembi voted minister of the year

HARARE - The Daily News readers and the leading paper’s Editorial Council have unanimously voted Walter Mzembi minister of the year.

Since he assumed office as minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mzembi has not left anyone in doubt on his resolve to have Zimbabwe regain its place as a major tourist destination.

Unlike his predecessors who bombarded the public with wasteful propaganda and sloganeering with jingles and stickers, Mzembi opted for a more pragmatic approach of marketing the country’s prime tourist resorts such as Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe and the Hwange wildlife game reserve through multimedia platforms including the social media.

The minister has successfully pursued Zimbabwe’s co-hosting of the UNWTO’s general assembly with Zambia in August 2013 which represents the endorsement of the country as a prime tourist destination.

His most effervescent and dynamic campaign is his official tourism branding which entices with “Zimbabwe, a world of wonders”.

In addition to the above, tourism in Zimbabwe, which was hitherto moribund, has today come back to life, with earnings jumping 47 percent last year to almost $1 billion, as the number of visitors continues to rise nationally, with Victoria Falls the country’s biggest attraction.

Mzembi hopes to grow those figures to $5 billion by 2015.

The well-groomed minister scored another mark when he single-handedly halted the violation of property rights in the Save Valley conservancies.

A dyed-in-the-wool Zanu PF minister, he uncharacteristically moved to protect foreign investors who were being forced to cede shareholding in their conservancies to Zanu PF nominees and top army and police officials, clashing with his Zanu PF compatriot and minister of Environment Francis Nhema in the process.

Besides the Daily News’ recognition, Mzembi has also earned the 2012 Zimbabwe Council for Tourism Personality of the Year and is the reigning African Tourism Minister of the Year.

Meanwhile, Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu was voted the worst minister for 2013.

Shamu continues to defy a directive from the principals and the negotiators of the three ruling parties for proper media reforms, in particular the reconstitution of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) board, the ZBC board and the Mass Media Trust.

The minister has retained the monopoly on ZBC.

Under Shamu’s watch, the State media has stepped up its propaganda drive, with Zanu PF taking up more slots on the state-owned broadcasting service to defend President Robert Mugabe’s controversial policies while barring access to his political opponents.

The Editorial Council noted that Shamu’s spirited attempts to stop entry of new players in the electronic media were a manifestation of dictatorship.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Zimbabwe has the capacity to register 56 district or community radio stations; 31 commercial radio stations; three national television stations and two national commercial FM radio stations.

ZBC, which to all intents and purposes is now resembling a Soviet-era broadcaster, has retained a monopoly on local airwaves through its two TV channels and four radio stations, which broadcast in English as well as local lingos, Shona and Ndebele. Its overt partisanship has seen it dramatically losing popularity.

Shamu has displayed an allergic reaction to media reforms and was desperately trying to prop-up Zanu PF’s declining grip through the airwaves ahead of elections expected next year.

The ubiquitous Shamu, who is patron of the controversial Zimbabwe Union of Musicians, has even failed to ensure his musicians are paid their royalties by ZBC, which he superintends as minister of Information.

He threatened to use Rhodesian style laws to muzzle media organisations which are critical of Mugabe.

Shamu has completely failed to organise briefings between media houses and Mugabe as is the norm around the world.

Perhaps his biggest success as minister was to heal the rift between the Chimbetu siblings and attending funerals of fallen musicians.

Closely following Shamu as the worst minister is Joseph Made, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister.

Halfway through the planting season for maize, the traditional staple for this landlocked country, hardly anyone is ploughing, much less sowing while the minister is busy at the president’s farm, where he is the farm manager.

Admittedly, droughts have ravaged some regions of Zimbabwe in the past, and relief agencies are handing out seed to subsistence farmers.

But thousands of other households have nothing to sow in the ground, and while foreign aid organisations are feeding them for now, they can’t reap what they don’t sow.

The World Food Programme estimates that about 1,6 million citizens are now at risk of starvation due to successive poor planning by minister Made.

There is no doubt this crisis has roots in bad weather, bad policies and bad economies. For that we give Made the infamous award of one of the worst ministers.

Given the turnaround of Air Zimbabwe, which is back in the skies and is scheduled to get an IATA certification soon to resume international flights; as well as the work being done to rehabilitate major highways around the country, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Nicholas Goche earned the most improved minister of the year gong.

Goche was the worst minister last year.

Goche shares that award with Finance minister Tendai Biti, who has also done well to effect austerity measures and do a tough balancing act in the country’s spending plan with a limited resource envelope.

Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa was voted the most consistent minister.

Chamisa, voted the minister of the year last year, also continued to shine, continuing to roll out his fibre optic project that has covered most parts of the country with a strengthened Internet signal.

Zimbabwe’s tele-density continued increasing from 81,5 percent in the year’s first quarter to 89,9 percent in the second quarter under Chamisa’s watch.

This is a big jump in adoption of mobile phones by Zimbabweans considering that in June 2011, the country’s tele-density was just 56,6 percent.

He is the only minister in government who never used a cent of government globe-trotting around the world blowing tax payers’ money. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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