Zimbabwe on Tuesday claimed President Robert Mugabe was never formally appointed World Health Organization’s (WHO) goodwill ambassador in the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCD), as the fall-out over the veteran ruler’s treatment by the world body deepens.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was at the weekend forced to a few days after it was announced amid pressure from who argued that the 93-year-old leader had a tainted record.
The Zimbabwean leader’s spokesperson, Mr George Charamba, said the events over the weekend had renewed debate on the need for reforms at the United Nations.
“The President was quite surprised that he had been appointed a goodwill ambassador by the WHO,” Mr Charamba told state media.
“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.”
Mr Charamba added: “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 hullaballoo over a non-appointment is in fact a non-event, which reflects a negative predisposition against Zimbabwe.”
Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi, who reportedly lobbied for President Mugabe’s appointment to the ceremonial position, initially said Zimbabwe had no qualms about WHO’s decision.
Besides countries such as the US and Britain, Zimbabwe civil society groups and opposition parties had urged Dr Ghebreyesus to reconsider the appointment, citing President Mugabe’s human rights record.
The long-time ruler is under Western sanctions for alleged and electoral fraud.