Cape Town – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, accused of ethnic cleansing and bankrupting his country, was on Tuesday appointed by the United Nations to become the new international envoy for tourism.
The UK Guardian reported on Wednesday that despite the fact that Mugabe, 88, was under a travel ban, he had been honoured as a "leader for tourism" by the UN's World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), along with his political ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, 75.
The pair signed an agreement with UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai at their shared border at Victoria Falls on Tuesday.
With a line-up that includes Drew Barrymore, David Beckham, Orlando Bloom, and Ricky Martin, the UN's choice of ambassadors has been known to cause raised eyebrows or the odd smirk.
According to the report, UNWTO said it had not appointed Mugabe to any formal position but acknowledged he would receive an open letter like other heads of state who have joined its leaders for tourism campaign.
The development has stunned human rights campaigners and political opponents, who regard Mugabe as a tyrant.