By Jonathan Moyo
Excerpts of a Presentation by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo, to the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair 2013 Buyers and Media Cocktail held on Friday 11, October 2013, in Harare.
It is pleasing to note that the 2013 edition of the now industry-acclaimed Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair has brought together international buyers and media from Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and America including the USA.
The inclusion of the USA reminds me of a proverbial incident involving Sarah Palin - the gaffe-prone vice-presidential candidate of John McCain’s 2008 losing bid for the White House.
Among many of her hilarious media-moments, Palin is famed for claiming that part of her international experience to qualify her for the number two job at the White House, was that she could see Russia and monitor events there from a window of her house in Alaska. But in a not-as-much-publicised related incident, Sarah Palin was asked by an interviewer which country alphabetically comes after the USA.
The question puzzled Palin and after lapsing into what appeared to be a trance, she came alive with a thunderous response delivered with the emphasis of a tea-party authority: “oh yes, the country which comes after the USA is the USB”, she told the bemused interviewer.
Well, I am sure we do not have with us at this 2013 Sanganai/Hlanganani Fair, international buyers or media from the USB. When everything is said and done, there’s a very important symbiotic relationship between tourism and the hospitality industry, on the one hand; and information, media and broadcasting on the other.
To understand that relationship, it is important to first appreciate that the main aim or critical purpose of the information, media and broadcasting sector in Zimbabwe is to tell the true and therefore authentic Zimbabwean story.
But in telling that story, there’s a twin challenge. First, not everyone has the same understanding of what the Zimbabwean story is or what the sources of that story are. Second, it is not self-evident or obvious to the information, media and broadcasting practitioners how the true Zimbabwean story is best told or what the best platform for telling that story is. We therefore must unravel this twin challenge.
To many, the Zimbabwean story is about events and incidents that happen in our country, specially the bad ones that grab the attention of the purveyors of headline news. From this perspective whose narrative is commonplace in and outside Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean story is headline news on the country as reported everyday by the local and international media.
While what is reported everyday as news is very important from the point of view of current affairs, it does not constitute the Zimbabwean story. This is because the Zimbabwean story is not about headline news but about the narration and projection of our God-given social, economic, cultural and natural heritage that makes us unique, different and thus unique as a people who constitute a world of wonders.
In this connection, the Zimbabwean story is about how our heritage has expressed itself in history, how it is expressing itself today and about how it is likely to express itself in the future in the light of its past and present expressions.
Against this backdrop, our heritage as the embodiment of the true Zimbabwean story is to be found in, among other things, our history; our geography; our institutions; our food; our culture and traditions; our arts; our sports; our monuments; our music; our wildlife; our leading biographies and our social, economic and cultural struggles in defence of our humanity.
These are but examples of our enduring sources of the true Zimbabwean story. One of the key questions we should interrogate as part of the 2013 edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani Fair is: How is the Zimbabwean story best told?
I have already indicated that telling the Zimbabwean story from the point of view of headline news is very limited and often misleading and thus not the best as that approach does not capture or convey our God-given social, economic, cultural and natural heritage.
The Zimbabwean story is best told through the platform of tourism and the hospitality industry. This is because, as a human endeavour, tourism is the convergence area or convergence zone of our heritage as a total package. Tourism mobilises the domestic and international consumers of our heritage in ways that tell the true Zimbabwean story.
In this context, tourism is the meeting point, the centrepiece or the engine of the Zimbabwean story. Although the Zimbabwean story is not to be found in headline news, it should be acknowledged that the negative onslaught against our country’s sovereignty, by those Anglo-Saxon countries that have imposed illegal sanctions and sought regime change through all sorts of foul means to the detriment of the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans across the political divide, has ironically benefited the telling of our true story by attracting unprecedented global interest in our country.
Because any news is good as far as brand recognition is concerned, our country has gotten a lot of free publicity from negative headline news. I don’t think there’s any rational living person or safari operator anywhere in the world who does not know that there’s a country called Zimbabwe and who is not interested in visiting or marketing our country for one reason or another.
The headline news of the last 14 years during which Zimbabwe has stood firm in defence of its sovereignty and God-given resources has made our country famous. However, as will be confirmed by your own experiences since your arrival for this Fair, travellers who visit Zimbabwe are pleasantly surprised to find Zimbabwe’s rich and exciting heritage which tells an engaging Zimbabwean story with nothing to do with headline news about fleeting events and incidents some if not many of which are either exaggerated beyond rationality or are in fact manufactured for negative political purposes.
As a result, the world is now keen to “meet” Zimbabwe in order to have the true and authentic Zimbabwean story not contaminated by negative or exaggerated headline news. It is for this reason that this World Travel and Tourism Fair is branded most appropriately as “Sanganai/Hlanganani”.
Through this Fair, you can “meet” Zimbabwe by feeling, experiencing, understanding and enjoying the country’s heritage which is the embodiment of the true and authentic Zimbabwean story.
What all this means is that whether you are here as a buyer or you are part of the media, you are essentially at the centre of the Zimbabwean story. We therefore welcome you and see you all as most cherished partners in telling our true story and look forward to continued interaction with you and your constituencies or markets beyond the Fair.