THE Honorary Commander of the British Royal Navy Mrs Durdana Ansari is in the country for a holiday in Victoria Falls where she implored Zimbabweans to work hard to market the country to the outside world and dispel negative publicity from international media and politics.
Mrs Ansari was recently appointed honorary commissioner of the Royal Navy, the United Kingdom’s naval warfare force by Queen Elizabeth.
For 12 years, she had been an officer in the Order of British Empire (OBE), a rare honour in the Royal House given to people who would have done significant service.
Originally from Pakistani Mrs Ansari landed in Victoria Falls on Monday afternoon clad in a maroon Muslim sari and the trademark ED Scarf with Zimbabwean colours.
She said she had been wearing the scarf on her shoulders for the past two weeks since the time she started preparing to come to Zimbabwe following an invitation by Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Britain, Ambassador Christian Katsande.
“Ambassador Katsande saw me wearing the Royal Navy uniform and we started talking about Zimbabwe. He invited me to visit the country and asked me to specifically come to Victoria Falls.
“I am thrilled to be in Zimbabwe because this has been my dream since I was a child. I got this scarf in London and when I got to South Africa, I was visited by Zimbabwe Ambassador to South Africa Ambassador David Hamadziripi who also insisted that I should come down here,” said Mrs Ansari who has lived in Britain for the past 40 years.
She said while Zimbabweans are very lovely and warm, the country needs to work hard to dispel negative publicity.
She is a former broadcaster who worked as a producer and presenter for the BBC where she said she interviewed several Heads of States on World politics.
“I moved to Britain at 16 and have been living there for 40 years. Zimbabwe is a beautiful country. I don’t know about your politics but I connect with people. This is the time for exchange of ideas.
“I don’t want to venture into political issues as I came here as an individual. But as I go back, I am going to tell people to come and experience life in Zimbabwe before they make their own opinions than to rely on what others tell them. There is too much anger in the world and we should make peace.
“People make perceptions but it’s you Zimbabweans who make your country. You should do something. Go out there and portray your country in the way you want. This is the time to travel the world, connect with other people and humanity and exchange ideas. You should market the products you have. Zimbabwe only needs to market itself. Whatever skills you have utilise them, there is always light after darkness,” she said.
Mrs Ansari said Zimbabwe needs to open up to the world and “see how we can help each other.”
She said like heaven, Zimbabwe is the place to be as she disagreed with a recent report on BBC that the Mighty Victoria Falls is dry.
She said while climate change is real, the Zimbabwean environment is fresh and well managed.
Soon after her arrival, she went on a helicopter flight above the Falls.
Yesterday she visited the Rainforest and the village market where she intended to meet women and small-scale entrepreneurs.
She is expected to leave today.
“Before coming here, I didn’t know much about actual things here in Zimbabwe. My brother came to play hockey about 40 years ago from Pakistan and he had been urging me to visit. I also had a friend in Zambia who always asked me to visit and when I got the opportunity, I had to come just to touch Zimbabwe soil and listen to people and tell them who I am. There is still so much to view, the Falls are still fantastic,” she said.
Asked if she was not scared of traveling alone, Mrs Ansari said: “I’m not worried about security. Some people are scared of me but I am not because I am a bold woman. I’m good at taking opportunities and challenges and I don’t lose a fight.”
She said she was willing to visit Zimbabwe every year if allowed to start projects that can make a difference in people’s lives.
She paid a courtesy call on acting Victoria Falls Mayor Patricia Mwale before the two went for dinner.
Cllr Mwale assured her that Victoria Falls is a safe destination.
“Our community was trained in hospitality and this is one of the towns where you can walk and mingle with animals freely.
“We are small town but growing not only in population but even in arrivals. We appreciate when we get visitors who are willing to be our ambassadors and carry our good name out there,” said Cllr Mwale.