In an interview with ZBC, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba has said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) never appointed Robert Mugabe as its goodwill ambassador for non communicable diseases.
Charamba said that Mugabe wouldn’t have accepted the WHO role anyway, because Zimbabwe is a tobacco producer and WHO is against tobacco. Said Charamba:
There was nothing, whether verbal or written, from the WHO intimating that WHO wished to make the President a goodwill ambassador in respect of NCDs. The President went to Uruguay to represent Zimbabwe as a member State of the UN and, under it, of the WHO, which is an agency of the UN. He did not go to Uruguay to accost anyone for any role, whether symbolic or real. The decision, if it was one, to designate the President of Zimbabwe as goodwill ambassador is something that he learnt about from the news; which news claimed this had been expressed at a press conference done by one of the WHO officials.
For his entire stay in Uruguay, there was nothing that was intimated to him suggesting that designation, and, in any case, there is always a formal way of communicating with Heads of States and to date there is no such communication. What it means, therefore, is that the WHO cannot take back what it never gave in the first place, and as far as he is concerned, all this hullabaloo over a non-appointment is in fact a non-event, but a non-event which reflects a negative predisposition towards Zimbabwe.
As a matter of fact, had anything been put to the President in the direction of helping WHO by the way of being a goodwill ambassador, the President would have found such a request to be an awkward one. Lest it be forgotten that Zimbabwe is world-famed producer of tobacco, and for its Head of State to be seen to be playing goodwill ambassador in respect of an agency which has a well-defined stance on tobacco growing and tobacco selling, that would have been a contradiction. And, in any case, that would have injured Zimbabwe’s national interest. In other words, he was not going to oblige the invitation had it come his way anyway. His views in respect of Zimbabwe vis-a-vis the campaign which is WHO-led are well known.
He does not believe that Zimbabwe, whose leading foreign currency earner (is tobacco), must stop from growing it for as long as; one, there are people who avidly smoke it and demand it; two, for as long as there are more sinful liquids that the rest of the world manufacture and sell to the world – liquids like whisky, the various sheds of beers which in any event account for more deaths than just smoking.
WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is quoted by The Herald saying that Mugabe had accepted the role. Said Dr Ghebreyesus:
Today, I am honoured to announce that President Mugabe agreed to serve as the goodwill WHO ambassador for Africa. Thank you so much your Excellency for accepting that challenge.