The Sunday Mail
It was glitz and glamour at the recent Diplomat of the Year Awards in Harare with diplomats from over 45 countries in attendance.
The fifth edition of the awards ceremony saw 10 heads of missions and three deputy heads being recognised for their diplomatic work in Zimbabwe.
Hosted by Diplomacy Appreciation Trust and Diplomat Magazine, the event was themed “Tourism as a driver for economic development and diplomacy”.
Among the plus-250 guests were Tourism Minister Dr Walter Mzembi, diplomats, Zimbabwe Government officials, and private sector and NGO representatives.
United Nations Resident Co-ordinator Mr Bishaw Parajuli was named Diplomat of the Year, in addition to getting a seperate honour as head of mission (Asia and Oceania).
Guest of honour Dr Mzembi stressed the strong relationship between diplomacy and tourism.
“We are all accustomed to what is referred to as traditional diplomacy. The dictionary definition of this diplomacy includes the work of maintaining good relations between governments of different countries; the art of communication between different parties, both representatives of States, and regular individuals; in international relations, diplomacy is the art of conducting relations, forming alliances, discussing treaties and reaching agreements. It is, simply put the tact or skill in dealing with people.
“What underlies all these definitions is that diplomacy is constructive peaceful human engagement at all levels, from individual to State level. It is in this context that we have seen the rise of a powerful phenomenon variously referred to as ‘citizen diplomacy’; ‘people-to-people diplomacy’; and ‘cultural diplomacy’,” said the minister.
Dr Mzembi also expounded on citizen diplomacy: “Imagine the opinion of a diplomatic station in Zimbabwe constituted by 12 people weighed against the thousands of ordinary global citizens from the same country, as a source market to Zimbabwe Tourism: certainly the opinion, observations, unrestricted movement and interactions of the later, carry more weight.”
The minister had people gasping in surprise when he highlighted 1999 data showing Harare International Airport was at that time busier than South Africa’s OR Tambo International Airport.
“I dream of a day in the future when we can restore our aviation viability to its all-time high as in 1999, when we had 48 international carriers servicing this destination. Then, Harare International Airport was busier than OR Tambo, and, therefore, we need to re-affirm Victoria Falls Airport as our new game changer set to service two million tourists per annum up from the current 500 000.”
In the African diplomats category, awards went to Namibia’s Ambassador Balbina Daes Piennar; Botswana’s Ambassador Kenny K Kiniotiro and Angola’s Ambassador Pedro Hendrick Vaalneto.
In the European category, chief diplomats awarded were Italy’s Ambassador Enrico De Agostini, Britain’s Ambassador Catriona Laing and EU Head of Mission Mr Phillipe Van Damme.
Brazil’s Ambassador Marcia Maro Da Silva, Australia’s Ambassador Suzanne McCourt and South Korea’s Ambassador Kwon Yong Kyu got awards in the Americas, Asia and Pacific categories respectively. In the deputy heads of mission category, Mr Isaac Mwakiluma (Tanzania), Mr Hamilton Lugor (South Sudan) and Mr Fahad Alshatti (Kuwait) walked away with prizes.
A special award for a non-diplomat was scooped by philantropist and ophthalmologist Dr Solomon Guramatunhu for his outstanding contribution to citizen diplomacy.
Chairperson of the Diplomacy Appreciation Trust Mrs Anorah Sibanda said, “We would want to express our sincere gratitude to our sponsors and partners: Stanbic Bank, CBZ, SG Apartments, Optinova, MBCA Bank, Toyota Zimbabwe, Safeguard, Cresta Hotels, Danai Wines, Diplomat Magazine, Ruva Fashions, Classic Artisans, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Premier Coloursell and African Hanger.
“The Diplomat of the Year Awards present a platform where we celebrate in unison regardless of our divergent political views, interests and foreign policies. It is also a social event where the diplomatic community meets captains of industry and exchange ideas and ideals. In a way, diplomat awards contribute to world peace and tolerance of divergent views.
“It is this conviction to make a change in our continent, contribute towards a peaceful world and appreciate good leadership that has propelled us to work hard and hold the awards annually since 2012. The awards were established by Diplomat Magazine but after overwhelming endorsement of the third edition of the awards an independent trust, the Diplomacy Appreciation Trust, was established which now run and manage the event.”