By Conrad Mwanza
ZIMBABWE was named among the best must-visit destinations by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019. The country finds itself in lofty company in a list that includes tourism boons like Sri Lanka, Germany and Belize among other countries. The announcement by one of the world’s leading travel authorities unravels one of the worst kept secrets in the tourism world that Zimbabwe is a prime place for tourism and travel.
This is after all, a country that boasts a UNESCO world heritage sites in the form of Khami Ruins, Manna Pools and the Great Zimbabwe National Monuments as well as one of the world’s seven natural wonders – the Victoria Falls. This is but one of the many reasons why Zimbabwe is lauded as one of the finest places to visit. Despite all this serenity though, we also have our ongoing problems and discontentment. It is no lie that in the past two decades Zimbabwe has been in the news for more bad than good.
The bad press not only generated from mainstream media but also from individuals who may have been directly or indirectly affected. The ills that plague our beloved nation cannot be denied but in the midst of all this chaos and mayhem there is a narrative less preached to the world. Part of the healing process and rebuilding is not burying our heads in the sand and feign ignorance on our problems, neither is it about turning a blind eye to the rays of hope shining forth. It is about a willingness and conscious decision to move forward and walk the talk.
There is an undisguised admiration for Zimbabwe’s natural resources and lands brimming with fertility and minerals. The hospitality and gregarious nature of our people is also one of the biggest selling points of the country. Zimbabwe is in a reawakening mode of its citizens as many people heed the call to step up and fill the gap in efforts to share the true and authentic Zimbabwean story. Often times, for various reasons, there are polarizing narratives concerning Zimbabwe and it is saddening that at times our own proclamations work against us as a nation. It is true that Zimbabwe and Africa, like any other nation and continent have their own problems but there is a need to give both narratives not just the negatives.
Looking around there is a lot of positivity, tolerance and goodwill among the people themselves and I am fully convinced that people power and collective effort can override negativity and grow seeds of not only optimism but also instil national pride. Each and every one of us is an ambassador of the country and continent wherever we go in the world. It becomes our mandate to tell the undiluted story of our virtues and challenges in an objective way that builds rather than destroy, that inspires rather than discourage.
There was a time when there existed a warped view of countries like the USA as shining examples of a perfect nation. Rarely do we get to hear of the prevalence of drug trade and abuse and violent crime in downtown New York and the vice that dogs Chicago. The American Dream, so carefully packaged and exported to the rest of the world through filtered narratives and movies has given the notion that no misrule and crime exists in the USA and other such countries. Just like Zimbabwe’s corruption and South Africa’s well known violent crime rate developed countries also have their problems.
The glorified view they get worldwide is no accident but a systematic coincidence that came through selling a positive narrative of their countries and fostered national pride to the extent that one has no choice but to clean up their act and work on bettering their country. It is the people who make up a country and hence the song we sing shapes and paints us.
Highlighting the positives is just as important as exposing misdeeds and injustice. Both sides of the coin must be flipped in order to get a full appreciation of situation. My declaration and rallying call remains the same as always; only you and I can build our nation. If we all play our parts in whatever small or big way we have who knows how far the ripple effect may spread.
I was pleased a while ago when a friend came to me seeking assistance with getting a visa to visit Zimbabwe. Together with his Nigerian wife they expressed an eagerness to come see the sights and experience the Zimbabwean way of life themselves and I was only too happy to assist as well as point out areas of interest both for holidaying and possible investment. My excitement turned to alarm and dismay a few days later when my friends expressed their reservations about visiting after all in the aftermath of unfortunate violent disturbances that rocked the country.
Understandably, they were unwilling to risk it and a simple browse on the internet and social media spelled more gloom than delight. After a few days as the situation stabilised we resumed our discussions and eventually on their own volition decided to visit anyway. Upon their return their narrative had changed; Zimbabwe is going through an unpleasant phase but the amount of optimism and will to do well in the people will carry it forward. It is because of many such instances that I am more than ever convinced that the key to unlocking our full potential lies in the people being proactive and playing our part in creating the Zimbabwe and Africa we all want to see. Ownership and pride of belonging starts with our frank and objective mentality to see beauty among our ruins and rebuild.
Conrad Mwanza is Founder of Zimbabwe Achievers Awards and Publisher of Zim Abroad Magazine, firstname.lastname@example.org