Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Traditionalists cleanse Vic Falls

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

The elders from Victoria Falls and surrounding areas finally conducted a cleansing ceremony on Saturday.

The community under Chief Mvutu covering Monde, Chisuma, Chidobe, Sizinda, Kachechete, Jengwe and Victoria Falls town is convinced that some of the calamities happening in their communities are a result of the anger of the “gods” hence conducting of rituals was now necessary.

Only a few selected elders from the Muzamba family representing the Tokaleya clan went to the shrine for the rituals.

The rest of the villagers patiently waited at one of the Muzamba’s homesteads for two things – good news that the cleansing ceremony had gone well and the start of merry making characterised by drinking traditional beer and eating meat.

The traditionalists believe cleansing the area and reviving such events will atone for the sins of the community and prevent famines, diseases, increased frequency of natural disasters including drowning in Zambezi River and attack by wild animals which they say are a result of defilement of sacred places.

A group of elders from the Muzamba family who are descendants of the Tokaleya clan, the original inhabitants of the area, conducted the ceremony at the Makonga shrine that had been abandoned for decades in a bush near Phakama Village between Chidobe and Chisuma.

The family’s spirit medium Gogo Margaret Muzamba and Mr Jafuta Muzamba led the rituals that involved singing, dancing and incantations directed at the clan’s ancestors to forgive the community.

They poured traditional beer on the ground and into a hole under a tree believed to be a haven for a snake that used to emerge during rituals.

Mr Muzamba said they used to conduct rituals such as rain making ceremonies at the shrine.

He said sacred places such as the Big Tree near the Victoria Falls Rainforest, Gorges Lodge and Katombora in Zambezi National Park where some human bones are said to be scattered on the ground, will also be visited.

Some of the places have been occupied by open air churches or fenced off by tour operating companies.

“This is where our ancestors used to conduct rainmaking ceremonies every September and perform other rituals to prevent dangers. There was a snake at this shrine and some drums that could be heard from inside the tree trunk during the ceremonies. We are trying to revive all these practices that had long been abandoned because of interference from other cultures,” said Mr Muzamba.

He said the ceremony will be made an annual event as part of the revival of cultural practices,

Mr Muzamba said a fence will be erected around the shrine to protect the place.

Some churches had reportedly started conducting services at the tree while villagers also go there to pick baobab fruits.

“The chief once approached us after some churches started conducting services here. This is part of what defiled all the sacred places as people disrespect custom,” said Mr Muzamba.

The Tokaleya clan is a group of Tonga people also found across the Zambezi River in Zambia under Chief Mukuni and in Zimbabwe are linked to Chief Dingani-Nelukoba of Mabale.

Gogo Muzamba, who took over from Gogo Chibumbuluke who was the family’s spirit medium, said while the shrine had been cleansed, it will take time for the calamites to end.

“All these calamities are a result of abandonment and disrespect of culture. When we were growing up, no one was allowed to play in the Zambezi River or cross without performing a ritual like throwing something valuable in water. All this stopped because we had abandoned our culture and the situation wwas worsned by the disrespect of some churches and strangers,” said Gogo Muzamba.

“Even if you go to church, it is important to respect your own culture and that of other people. It will take time for these calamities to end because the damage had already been done but we are happy to be able to appease the spirits to save our culture and society at large. We wish the young generation can be taught about this.”

The traditionalists implored authorities to consult traditional leaders before initiating any infrastructural projects to avoid tampering with sacred places.-@ncubeleon

Source: Traditionalists cleanse Vic Falls (13/10/20)

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Victoria Falls re-activates helicopter flights

 Operators of helicopter flights popularly known as "Flight of Angels" above the Victoria Falls have activated their systems in anticipation of return of tourists following the reopening of the sector.

Helicopter flights were automatically suspended when countries imposed travel bans as there were no travellers to take up the popular activity.

The Flight of Angels is the only opportunity for tourists to view the upper and lower Zambezi River including the gorges, magnificent Victoria Falls and bridge, both on the Zambian and Zimbabwean side.

Chikopokopo Helicopters, Zambezi Helicopters and Bonisairare are the three operators based in the resort town. The recent resumption of domestic flights and the anticipated start of regional travel has reignited hope for helicopter operators.

Chikopokopo workers are already on site and Covid-19 guidelines such as hand washing and sanitising provisions have been put in place.

The company's proprietor, Mr Lloyd Muchaka, said they have come up with packages for domestic tourists as they are ready to resume flights.

"We are very much prepared and we have been communicating with the regulatory authority (Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe) and it seems like everything is in order," he said.

"We are excited by the coming of flights like Fastjet and we have been getting inquiries mainly from domestic tourists. We are hoping very soon we will be getting some from the region," said Mr Muchaka.

Fastjet resumed scheduled flights last Thursday while Ethiopian Airlines is expected to start tomorrow. Mr Muchaka said operators were looking forward to opening of borders, particularly the South Africa and Botswana borders.

"People are waiting for things to happen but we are getting inquiries and hopefully we will be able to sustain numbers. We are excited to welcome tourists back in the new normal. For now, we will be flying smaller families and making sure they are sanitised, masked as we have put in place necessary health guidelines. As clients come in, they will be sanitised and temperature checked," he said.

"I don't think it will be an easy road but somebody has to sacrifice. We have reduced our prices by about 25 percent as we put in place packages to lure domestic clients."

The tourism industry is generally sceptical about resuming most activities owing to low numbers of clients so far.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Tourism sector calls for wildlife protection

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

STAKEHOLDERS in the tourism and safari industry have implored Government to closely monitor human activities such as mining in wildlife areas to preserve the environment and promote tourism.

The stakeholders who included environmentalists, wildlife conservationists, safari and tour operators, hoteliers, heads of Government departments and traditional leaders held a virtual meeting on Zoom yesterday to deliberate on issues affecting the environment and tourism. The meeting was organised by the Association for Tourism in Hwange and coordinated by Ms Elisabeth Pasalk-Valerio of Gwango Lodge in Dete.

It was inspired by recent claims that some foreign firms were exploring for coal in Sinamatela and Robins Camp areas on the edge of Hwange National Park. The issue was first raised by Bhejane Trust whose rhino monitoring team reportedly encountered some workmen exploring for coal without an environmental impact assessment, as no consultation had been done. Speaking at the meeting, stakeholders said any mining activities within game parks will lead to environmental damage as well as cause devastating effects on tourism, economy and also increase human-wildlife conflict.

They called for consultation with local communities and operators for sustainable conservation. “For exploration work to start, there should be an environmental impact assessment where stakeholders should be consulted. In terms of the Wildlife Act no one is allowed to carry mining activities within the national park unless with consent and permit from Environment and Mining line ministries while special grant covers an area already designated for concessions. Current mining activities happening in the park are illegal and there should be an investigation because you can only explore with an EIA,” said Mr Renius Magumula from Hwange.

Mr Daniel Kuvawoga of Painted Dogs Conservancy urged investors to consult people on the ground before starting projects to protect wildlife. Ms Julia Pierini implored authorities to monitor human activities.

“Hwange is a key conservation area and there seem to be an increase in mining activities in key biodiversity areas including Chimanimani, Zambezi and this is concerning,” she said.

Chief Nekatambe of Dete said encroaching into the game parks was fuelling human-wildlife conflict.

“We are worried as traditional leaders because people have come complaining. Let’s engage with our listening President I am sure he can cancel these special grants,” he said.

Centre for Natural Resources Governance executive director Mr Farai Maguwu concurred saying: “Encroachment into wildlife habitats is causing human wildlife conflict. Animals are distressed and that affects their behaviour and makes them agitated. Preserving these animals makes business sense.”

Source: Tourism sector calls for wildlife protection (04/10/20)

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Chieftainship Wrangle Rages, Six Years On


THE wrangle within the Mlotshwa family in Monde outside Victoria Falls is far from over after the family failed to agree on who should succeed Chief Mvutu who died six years ago.

Chief Mvutu, born Nyangayezizwe Mlotshwa died in March 2014 aged 61. He left behind three daughters, which fuelled the wrangle as the family vowed not to allow the late chief’s eldest daughter Ms Silibaziso Mlotshwa, now aged 24 and married, to take over.

The family nominated the late chief's brother Mr Sanders Mlotshwa as the successor in December 2014 but Silibaziso challenged that in court arguing that she is the one who should take over from her father.

 The family is divided with one faction in support of Mr Mlotshwa saying it is against Ndebele culture for a woman to succeed her father as chief while others back Ms Mlotshwa saying she is being victimised just because she is a woman.

The family convened a meeting on Monday following a High Court order three months ago which nullified nomination of Mr Mlotshwa as a potential successor and ordered the Hwange District Development Coordinator's office to restart the selection process with respect to human rights.

The meeting was chaired by Chief Sikhobokhobo of Nkayi who was leading a three-member delegation that included Chief Nekatambe of Hwange and Chief Tategulu of Tsholotsho on behalf of the Matabeleland North Provincial Chief's Assembly.

Hwange DDC Mr Simon Muleya, representatives from the Gender Commission and the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, Silibaziso's lawyer Mr Thulani Ndlovu of Sansole and Senda Legal Practitioners, Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini and other stakeholders attended the meeting.

The emotive meeting which started at 10am, was on two occasions adjourned to allow the family to deliberate on its own but to no avail.

After seven hours of deliberation the family failed to agree on who should succeed the late chief between Ms Mlotshwa and her uncle.

Chief Sikhobokhobo and his delegation and all other stakeholders left around 5pm leaving the family to caucus and update the Provincial Chief's Assembly Tuesday morning through the DDC office.

In an interview after the meeting, Chief Sikhobokhobo said the meeting resolved to allow the family to deliberate and submit a name. 

"This is an issue that should be handled by traditional leaders and we were here to give that freedom to the family to select their own person. They failed to agree and they will follow us tomorrow to the DCC office with the name of the person they would have agreed on," he said.

Earlier during the meeting, Chief Sikhobokhobo said the Provincial Chief's Assembly's role was to facilitate the process with the family making its own decision.

"We are not here to help you choose but to listen to what you tell us as a family hence you are the ones who should select and agree on who you chose," he told the gathering at the late chief's homestead.

Mlotshwa family spokesperson Mrs Effie Mlotshwa-Sithole said the family would follow the Nguni culture to which its chieftaincy is rooted.

"What's happening is that we are remaining behind as family to discuss this issue and we should submit a name tomorrow to the DDC office. The issue is not about who is first born or who is who, we are following the succession as it has always happened. Of the five chiefs in our lineage, two were not first-born children but were considered because there are several other qualities that are looked at," she said.

The family choice Mr Mlotshwa is a son to the late chief's brother Simon who is also late. The family said he is eligible to take over because his father was a chief.

Ms Mlotshwa vowed to stand for her right as she refused to bow to the family's plea for her to step down for her uncle.

The family was supposed to agree on a name for the successor and notify the DDC on Tuesday but had not done so by late yesterday afternoon. Chronicle

Source:  Chieftainship Wrangle Rages, Six Years On (01/10/20)


Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Getting tourism sector out of dire straits


THE tourism sector in Zambia has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 shockwaves, with virtually no international tourist arrivals since March 2020.

Business in the tourism sector almost came to an abrupt halt owing to travel restrictions and subdued domestic tourism activities.

Although the country is now seeing a rise in the consumption of tourism services by the domestic market, this is not large enough to support the multitude of enterprises, especially large hotels that cater for international travellers or the luxury lodges at the higher end of the market.

The World Travel and Tourism Council has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry.

Eco-Tourism Association of Zambia (ETAZ) also projects that the pandemic could result in 7,000 jobs being lost, 168 safari lodges and camps closing, while over US$100 million would be lost from the safari industry in 2020.

Similarly, the air transport has also been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the first half of 2020, domestic and international passenger movements at Zambia’s four major airports reduced by more than one million. The four international airports are Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in Ndola, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula in Livingstone and Mfuwe in Mambwe.

However, with the easing of lockdown measures, some international airlines have resumed flights into Zambia.

Concerned about the happenings in the tourism industry, Government, in its quest to revive the sector and promote local tourism, has proposed relief measures to be implemented in the 2021 national budget.

Among the measures to be implemented is the time to pay agreement covering income tax and value added tax.

“Government has reduced corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent on income earned by hotels and lodges on accommodation and food services, suspended import duty on Safari game viewing motor vehicles, tourist buses and coaches,” Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu announced during his presentation of the 2021 national budget to Parliament on Friday.

Additionally, Government has also suspended retention fees paid by tourism enterprises, registration fees for hotel managers and licence renewal fees paid by hotels and lodges.

Since March this year, hundreds of workers have been sent on forced leave by hotel owners and tour operators in Lusaka and Livingstone, citing loss of business resulting from cancelled bookings, which grounded the industry.

Visits to the Victoria Falls heritage site were equally suspended on March 28 this year to avert the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, on May 21, President Edgar Lungu announced the reopening of the Victoria Falls to help revive the sector, with a call on players to also consider tapping into the K10 billion stimulus package to boost their businesses.

To facilitate an increase in tourist arrivals into Zambia, Government has injected over US$1 billion in the construction of four international airports.

Dr Ng’andu announced that Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport and Kenneth Kaunda International Airport would be opened next year.

Likewise, to encourage Zambians to operate in priority sectors, under a multi-facility economic zone or an industrial park, Government has proposed to reduce the investment threshold for Zambian citizens to qualify for tax incentives under the Zambia Development Agency Act number 11 of 2016 to US$100,000 from US$500,000.

Furthermore, the minister of Finance has proposed to suspend import duty on safari game viewing vehicles, tourist buses and coaches.

Livingstone Tourism Association chairperson Rodney Sikumba is optimistic that the reduced corporate income tax will help stimulate the stifled industry.

Further, the association is pleased with the proposed reduced investment threshold in the tourism sector for Zambia to qualify for tax exemption.

“Most of our budget submissions have been taken up and on tax, we seem to have made progress and we are happy about that,” Mr Sikumba said.

Similarly, ETAZ chairman Grant Cumings is thrilled with relief measures given to the tourism sector.
“The announcements are very much appreciated; these are the first meaningful tourism reliefs in many years. In the context of recovery from COVID, the reduction in corporate tax is a welcome relief in a profitable environment, but perhaps not so effective in the current environment where tourism business are generally suffering huge losses, near bankruptcies. When companies are losing money, a tax on profit is not so helpful compared to a time when companies are profitable,” explains Mr Cumings.
For some time, ETAZ members have been crying for the removal of import duties on vehicles. Therefore Mr Cumings feels the relief has come at a right time when companies are struggling to meet statutory payments to employees and Government.

“While such measures are appreciated and helpful, and will be more so in the coming years; much more meaningful help to tourism now would be stimuli, like removing or at least reducing VAT on tourism services, and introducing a meaningful marketing budget and programme to generate new interest and growth in Zambia’s tourism,” Mr Cumings said.

But, acknowledging the difficulties regarding preparations of the 2021 national budget under the current economic conditions, the Tourism Council of Zambia has extolled Government for responding favourably to their submissions in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

Council board chairperson Vincent Mupwaya applauded the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Chitotela, and his ministerial team in addressing growth constraints faced by the tourism sector.
“It is our considered belief that the announced stimulant package will encourage foreign direct investment and also free up resources for reinvestment, reduce job losses in the tourism sector and enterprise level,” Mr Mupwaya said.

With tourism being the most affected economic sector by COVID-19 shocks, the council believes the industry will only recover if the announced measures are sustained for a reasonable period to allow the sector to recover fully.

And Mr Chitotela says Government is determined to resuscitate the sector through promotion of domestic tourism.

The minister has since appealed to tourism players to start reducing tourism packages for the domestic market so that Zambians could begin to benefit from local tourism services.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Tourist visits at Victoria Falls nosedive amid COVID-19 pandemic

 In 2019, about one million tourists visited the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. Now, only a handful of locals view the Mosi oa Tunya (Smoke that Thunders), as it is locally named.

The Livingstone Tourism Association has warned that if the situation continues, the tour operators in Zambia’s tourist capital, may be forced to shut down their operations.

In 2019, the tourism industry contributed some seven percent of Zambia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and about 7.2 percent of total employment. International tourists spent some 849 million U.S. dollars, representing about 10 percent of Zambia’s total exports, according to government statistics.

Between January and June 2020, only about 14,000 tourists were recorded at the Victoria Falls by local authorities.

In an interview with Xinhua, Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) Chairperson Rodney Sikumba, painted a gloomy picture for the city.

He said although local tourists visited the city, they did not have the purchasing power needed to sustain the 257 tourism businesses. He warned that most of his members faced bankruptcy.

“We can attract the locals, but then they will find that the pricing is prohibitive,” Sikumba observed.

He said there was need to re-invent local tourism as operators had to reduce pricing to loss-making margins for them to accommodate domestic tourists.

“From the way things are, its very difficult for me an operator to reduce my pricing by 30 percent on account of trying to attract domestic tourists. That in itself, we are robbed of the very little profit we trying to make,” Sikumba said.

He, however, is hopeful that a silver lining would come once COVID-19 is defeated.

Apart from the Victoria Falls, Livingstone is also known for its colourful local crafts, which is part of the city’s prized possessions.

Most of the crafts that are sold to tourists as souvenirs are carved in Mukuni Village which is part of the Falls area.

Mukuni Crafts Association Chairperson, Joseph Sitali, described the current situation as a disaster.

He said his over 200 members are failing to make sales as locals rarely bought curios.

Sitali said his members are considering taking their business online but have no knowledge of e-commerce.

Source: Tourist visits at Victoria Falls nosedive amid COVID-19 pandemic (27/09/20)

Sunday, 27 September 2020

More elephant deaths recorded in Victoria Falls

 Langton Nyakwenda recently in  Victoria Falls

TWO more elephants were found dead in Victoria Falls last Friday, bringing to 27 the number of jumbo deaths in Zimbabwe in the last two months.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) suspects the deaths were a result of a bacteria and samples have been sent to the United Kingdom for tests.

The most affected areas are in the north-western  parts of the country where Hwange and Zambezi National Parks and forests such as Woodlands and Pandamasu are located.

ZimParks public relations manager Mr Tinashe Farawo confirmed the latest deaths in an interview with The Sunday Mail yesterday.

“We discovered the first carcass in Victoria Falls on Friday morning,” said Mr Farawo.

“Another dead elephant was discovered in the same area later that day. We are suspecting a bacterial infection and we have sent samples to the United Kingdom.

“These deaths normally happen this time of the year. During the dry season animals travel long distances in search of food and water sources. Elephants are heat sensitive so this might be stress related.”

Zimbabwe is home to over 84 000 elephants, the second largest population in the world behind Botswana. Yet the country’s national parks have a carrying capacity of just 55 000.

Said Mr Farawo:

“That’s why we are always saying we must depopulate certain areas, particularly Hwange and repopulate areas where there are lesser animals.

“We have capacity to repopulate the whole of Africa especially in countries which had elephants before but were wiped out due to various reasons like poaching.”

The first group of 11 elephants were found dead on August 28 with their tusks intact thereby ruling out poaching. The mysterious deaths had initially appeared to share some similarities with the unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants in neighbouring Botswana in recent months.

Scientists are still to determine what killed the elephants in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana.

Both male and female elephants of all ages have died and locals have reported seeing the giant mammals staggering and going around in circles before they die.

Source: More elephant deaths recorded in Victoria Falls (26/09/20)