Zimbabwe seems to have had a good start to 2011. It has received good publicity from an unlikely quarter, The New York Post. The Post , the 13th oldest newspaper in the United States but generally acknowledged as the oldest to have been published continuously as a daily, on January 4 had a picture splash of Zimbabwe’s tourist attractions including the Victoria Falls, the Hwange National Park, the Victoria Falls bridge and the capital Harare.
The New York Post is owned by Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch whose other mass circulation paper in Britain, The Sun, has carried virulent attacks on Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe calling him tyrant, dictator and evil.
The picture feature said while the mainstream media liked to dwell on the negative aspects of Zimbabwe — “election rigging, human trafficking, border disputes, rhino poaching, drugs, diseases of the acronymed sort — we prefer to focus in on the Montana-sized country’s good points. Like Victoria Falls, — though its original name, Mosi-oa-Tunya (“smoke that thunders”), was way more gangster”.
The positive coverage from one of the United States main newspaper could mark the return of tourism to Zimbabwe which hosts one of the world’s seven wonders. Tourism had become the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, beating tobacco, before the economic collapse that began at the turn of the century.
The positive coverage is also significant because Zimbabwe is still under United States sanctions. At one time the US issued travel warnings urging its citizens not to visit the country. The sanctions are due for review in March.
There has been heated debate about the nature of sanctions on Zimbabwe with the West and the United States itself insisting that they are targeted at individuals but analysts say they are essentially comprehensive sanctions because they include economic sanctions against the country itself.