By Patrice Makova
TOURISM and Hospitality Industry permanent secretary, Sylvester Maunganidze’s job is on the line following statements he made to Parliament which Cabinet felt undermined preparations for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) 20th general assembly.
His statement nearly caused a diplomatic spat between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Maunganidze recently told the Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Environment and Tourism that the country lied to win the bid to co-host with Zambia, the UNWTO general assembly next year.
He also chided Zambia for not making any meaningful contribution to the preparations saying the government there was “asleep” and changing ministers and permanent secretaries every two months.
“If certain things do not happen, it is because we have a Siamese twin (Zambia) who is handcuffed across the river and we breathe the same oxygen unfortunately,” a transcript of Maunganidze’s statement to Parliament reveals.
“I do not want to say I would have wished if we were doing it on our own, but at this late hour, I feel we would have done better.”
Sources said the “reckless” statement had angered the Zambian government with the country’s foreign affairs minister, Given Lubinda, last week lodging a formal complaint with Tourism and Hospitality industry minister, Walter Mzembi and his Zimbabwean counterpart, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
“The Zambian minister expressed his country’s great disquiet with evidence presented to the Zimbabwean Parliament on their perceived shortcomings,” said the source. “Mzembi apologised on behalf of Zimbabwe and the issue has since been resolved, although the Zambians have indicated it will be difficult for them to work with Maunganidze.”
The source said although Maunganidze was reprimanded by Mzembi who gave him a tongue lashing, the tourism permanent secretary now appeared isolated.
He faced more backlash as the Cabinet committee responsible for the UNWTO preparations wants the Public Service Commission (PSC) and President Robert Mugabe to take action against him.
Contacted for comment, Mzembi confirmed meeting the Zambian foreign affairs minister in Harare last week, but was not at liberty to divulge what they discussed.
“All I can assure the nation is that it is business as usual between us and our Zambian counterparts,” he said. “Let’s not allow this issue to detract us from the bigger picture, which is the successful hosting of the general assembly.”
Mzembi rubbished Maunganidze’s comments saying Zimbabwe won the bid to host the assembly in an open, fair and transparent manner, beating several high-profile candidates like Russia, Colombia and Jordan.
“The core team around the preparation of this event must desist from issuing statements of a policy nature that undermines the credibility and authenticity of this important international event,” he said.
Maunganidze could not be reached for comment as his mobile phone has been unavailable since Friday.