Bulawayo (New Ziana)- Zimbabwean diplomats are a critical cog in rebuilding the country’s image and brand soiled by false Western media and government narratives of political tyranny, human rights and democratic suppression by the authorities, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.
Speaking at a seminar on Brand Zimbabwe here, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said other stakeholders, including private Zimbabwean citizens, also had a big role to play in rebutting the false picture of the country painted by the West.
The seminar was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its diplomats and other stakeholders to strategise on how to clean up the country’s image and attract foreign business and investment.
“Branding of a country is not something that the Government can go it alone. It is about coming up with a central idea which the whole nation coalesces around,” Mutsvangwa said.
“It requires everyone to put their hands on the deck and work towards coming up with a brand that truly identifies us, a brand that tells who we are, a brand that mirrors our culture, norms and values,” she added.
Zimbabwe has been in a stand-off with the West for over two decades after it compulsorily acquired excess farmland from white farmers to resettle landless blacks.
The West opposed the move, and responded by imposing illegal sanctions on the country, and leading an international media onslaught to tarnish its image.
The Western media accused the government of cracking down on the opposition, suppressing human rights and other freedoms, accusations Zimbabwe strongly denied.
Inspite of the sanctions, the new government has vowed to turn-around Zimbabwe’s sanctions-ravaged economy and launched a series of policies and programmes to achieve this.
One of these is the Brand Zimbabwe project, launched recently, under the theme “Retooling Zimbabwe`s Diplomacy for Accelerated Economic Transformation: Through Re-Affirmation, Engagement and Re-Engagement”.
The project aims at re-asserting the country’s true image and restoring international confidence in brand Zimbabwe yet again.
“Our national brand suffered from the assault on our image by the West following the fast-track land reform programme of 2000 in which the Government compulsorily acquired excess agricultural land from former white commercial farmers and redistributed it to the black majority from whose ancestors it had been forcibly taken by white settlers,” Mutsvangwa said.
“In addition to serving as retribution to force our government to stop and reverse the move, the sanctions were also meant to hurt the ordinary citizens so that they could revolt against the Government and remove it from power, replacing it with one, which would be subordinate to the West,” she said.
She added: “Resultantly, the country’s image was battered by negative and damaging publicity peddled by the Western media. This led to Zimbabwe being ostracized from the rest of the world, with some sponsored local and international media on the onslaught to portray the country in bad light.”
Against this background, Mutsvangwa said “.. we found it imperative to re-assert our real identity and spruce up our image and begin to play a part in the community of nations, hence the Brand Zimbabwe Project.”
“That rebranding drive, which includes engagement and re-engagement, is creating new opportunities for partnerships and new friendships. The pillars to the Brand Zimbabwe are found in the expressions of our citizens as they go about their work, at play, at school and at whatever useful socio-economic activity they partake,” she said.
“Thus, the birth of the Second Republic has resuscitated hope and rekindled imagination and there is a new ‘can do’ spirit across the land.
“It has restored vigor and vitality. Riding on this momentum, the Brand Zimbabwe Campaign is already paving the way for our beautiful country to establish new relations with new friends, reviving ties with those we had broken ties with, and further deepening ties with those friends who have stood by us during difficult times,” Mutsvangwa said.