Zimbabwe: Police embarrass minister ahead of summit

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Overzealous security agents in Zimbabwe at the weekend nabbed a Mexican journalist in the southern town of Masvingo days before Zimbabwe hosts its first major international tourism summit in Harare.

The journalist had been cleared by Zimbabwe authorities to film in Masvingo which boasts of having the second largest tourist attraction in the country, Great Zimbabwe.

Minister of Tourism Walter Muzembi is fuming, not least because he had “lent” his car to the journalist to do his business. in fact, Muzembi is extremely concerned about the attitude of the country’s security agents.

Muzembi said he feared that the continued disregard of the country’s laws would scare away critical foreign investment and the flow of tourists to the southern African country.

“We cannot attract tourists if we do not look at our law and order. We approve a journalist from Mexico to go and film in Masvingo and he was arrested. The same journalist with my driver, my car and a government letter were arrested.

“He wanted to film for Mexican tourists ahead of the World Cup in South Africa, but the first call I received once he got there was he was at a police station. He has understood that we are in a transition and we have said it will not happen again.”

Masvingo is located about 300km south-east of the capital Harare and is along the route to South Africa.

Zimbabwe remains one of the most difficult countries for journalists to practise their profession despite formation of a coalition government by Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai 12 months ago.

Last month a prominate journalist Stanly Kwenda fled the country to South Africa after persistent death threats by a senior police official.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe hosts its first major international tourism summit in Harare since the formation of the coalition administration where 300 high profile international investors, including the World Tourism Organization are expected to attend.

The summit is expected to give Zimbabwe a rare opportunity to reposition itself as a competitive destination.

But the journalist’s arrest could mar Zimbabwe’s attempts to lure spill-over business from soccer lovers who are expected to descend on the region during the world’s largest football event in June.

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