Mzembi confident Mugabe will officiate at UNWTO

HARARE - Walter Mzembi, Tourism minister is confident President Robert Mugabe will officiate at the UNWTO tourism indaba as head of State.

Yet Mugabe, facing his strongest opposition challenge in 33 years, could lose the forthcoming presidential election which is slated ahead of the UNWTO.

Mzembi told journalists at a Tuesday cocktail  that Mugabe and his deputy vice President Joice Mujuru will be leading proceedings at the week-long event.

Zimbabwe and Zambia will co-host the 20th UNWTO General Assembly from August 24-29 in Victoria Falls and Livingstone.

This is only the second time that Africa will host the UNWTO General Assembly, after Senegal in 2005.  It is the first time for it to be held in the Sadc and Comesa regions, to which both neighbouring countries belong.

Paradoxically, Zimbabwe might hold elections on July 31 in compliance with a Constitutional Court order that was passed last month, or might, if the court rules in favour of a deferment, as is being sought by the coalition government, hold elections on August 14, and either way, there is no guarantee that Mugabe will win the elections.

But Mzembi, a minister in Mugabe-led Zanu PF, said his principal will be in charge during the second day of the indaba along with co-host and Zambian President Michael Sata.

“On Sunday, August 25 we shall have the official opening ceremony and welcome dinner at the Victoria Falls Hotel,” Mzembi said.

“This morning (Tuesday during Cabinet) I indicated to his Excellency (Mugabe) that it will be to his discretion as to the pitch of this particular segment because really this marks the kick-off of the general assembly and I can tell you that president Mugabe and President Sata will certainly be present as the two national presidents.

“In the afternoon (on Monday August 26) the Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe who happens to be the patron of Zimbabwe Tourism will obviously officiate.”

But there is no guarantee yet for that, with Mugabe set to lock horns with his bitter-rival-turned-ally Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Latest opinion polls show the two candidates in a statistical dead heat, tied neck-to-neck with none of them guaranteed an outright victory.

Tsvangirai is currently in talks for a grand coalition, which analysts say is the “doctor’s prescription” towards ending Mugabe’s grip on power.

Mzembi said he would have preferred elections to be held on July 31 so as to give time for an elected government to run the show.

But there is no consensus in the three-party coalition, with Tsvangirai pushing for an October poll while Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube is comfortable with a September election, while a belligerent Mugabe is pushing for a July election.

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