Zimbabwe’s government says it respects the decision by the World Health Organisation to withdraw the appointment of president Robert Mugabe as a “goodwill ambassador”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi, said in a government statement, that the UN health agency “benefited tremendously” from the original decision to name Mugabe to the post because of the global attention that resulted.
“On a name-recognition scale this name beats them all, but it is our business to protect its brand equity from unnecessary besmirching. So on the balance, it is wiser to let go,” Mzembi says.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus named Mugabe to the largely ceremonial post at a meeting on Wednesday in Uruguay on chronic diseases attended by both men.
At the time, Tedros praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide healthcare to all”.
The head of the World Health Organisation on Sunday withdrew Mugabe’s appointment as a “goodwill ambassador” following outrage among Western donors and rights groups.
In a statement, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said he decided to rescind his appointment of president Mugabe after listening to the flood of outrage and concerns voiced by international leaders and health experts.
He said he revoked Mugabe’s position in the best interests of the World Health Organization.
Ghebreyesus also said he had consulted with the Zimbabwe government about his decision.
The decision to rescind Mugabe’s appointment has generated a lot of reactions on social media.
WHO is struggling to recover a reputation tarnished by its slowness in tackling the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2014-2015 under Tedros’ predecessor, Margaret Chan.
The agency is now grappling with a massive cholera outbreak in Yemen that has infected some 800,000 people in the past year and a plague outbreak in Madagascar that has killed nearly 100 in two months.