The book of Jeremiah in the Bible’s Old Testament, specifically Chapter 18, imparts its message in a graphic way. The prophet takes us to a potter’s house and from there he moulds his message. The message was very contemporary and every living soul in those times could understand it. The care with which a potter goes through his work, the frustration he experiences when his creation is marred and the time that goes into re-moulding another artefact are all put on show for us. It is a timeless illustration that was reawakened in my imagination when the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) embarked on its National Tourism Master Plan exercise.
The Kariba leg of the national consultations was well attended. Despite the people’s apparent zeal to take the country’s fortunes to another level, the same old habits that have always dragged us down reared up their ugly heads and almost spoiled to the mood. The guest of honour, the local DA, was late and the meeting was delayed by over an hour. We simply cannot get our act together, even for a meeting planned well in advance. We have “African time” for a fast-paced world. The Consultants supervising the consultative exercise were also delayed because Air Zimbabwe cancelled its flight to Kariba a day or two earlier and these Consultants, who were meant to fly into Kariba on a Sunday afternoon from Victoria Falls for the Monday meeting had to drive to Harare before proceeding to Kariba on another long road trip without any rest in between. I am not going to rap Air Zimbabwe’s fingers – we have come to expect this of them, haven’t we? It is some of these seemingly simple, small and innocuous things that have generally tended to spoil our otherwise impressive array of tourist products. I am certain the Consultants will find space for such a lackadaisical approach to important national matters in their report. I couldn’t ignore it because, for me, it spoiled the whole process and exposed our state of un-preparedness for change as a national unit, not just individuals.
The Consultative process itself was even-tempered and Kariba, the Zambezi Valley and the whole of Mashonaland West did speak. Someone drove from Chirundu’s Tiger Safaris for this meeting. Some drove from Chinhoyi, Zvimba and Hurungwe. And I am talking busy people here – people like CEOs and DAs. Still, National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority staffers, stationed in Kariba urban, decided to give the meeting a wide berth, denying the Consultants some cutting edge insights into issues raised at the forum. I don’t want to come out as a pessimist, but these are the same people and things that curtail our level of service delivery.
Everyone left the meeting with the impression that this is not just another exercise that will come up with a forward-looking document that will end up gathering dust on some shelf in some august office. The zeal to move on to another level is palpable from the tourism and hospitality players.
By Laiton Kandawire.