Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls - www.zambezibookcompany.com

Thursday, 25 February 2016

African Sun clears $200k Vic Falls debt

African Sun Limited has paid more than $200,000 to clear its outstanding rates and water bills to the Victoria Falls Municipality.

In June last year, the hotel group was issued with summons in respect of the outstanding rates amounting to $383,000 owed by three of its hotels — The Victoria Falls Hotel, the Elephant Hills Resort and The Kingdom Hotel — in the resort town.

The amount took into account an increase of at least 250 percent on the rates and water bills. The listed hotel group had stopped payments as the company felt the increment was too high at a time the company’s hotel units were operating below capacity.

After it was issued with summons, the group engaged the council with a view to break the impasse.
African Sun has 731 rooms in Victoria Falls, about 66 percent of the resort town’s accommodation capacity.

African Sun and the town council agreed to resolve the matter out of court after the former came up with a debt payment plan, which was accepted by the municipality.

The hotel group had proposed a rate, which would have seen it paying a total $203,000 to clear the arrears. But the council declined to reduce the rate and instead offered a discount on condition that its proposed amount was paid by December 31.

The group proposed monthly rates of $7,800 for Victoria Falls Hotel, $7,500 for Elephant Hills and $5,500, $1,271 for the Kingdom at Victoria Falls Hotel.

Council had proposed much higher rates at $9,620,22, $9,426,73 and $8,409,31. The municipality had hiked rates from $3,018, $2,985 and $1,271 respectively, for the group’s three hotels.

The council argued that it could not reduce rates, which had been gazetted, midway into the financial year unless it was to be done through a supplementary budget and all processes were followed to either reverse or reduce the gazetted rates. But they promised the “proposal will certainly be considered in the budget for 2016.”

African Sun paid a total of $202,890 in three equal installments of $67,630 by December.
“It’s the company’s view that all due process was followed and this matter was concluded and the municipality accepted the company’s proposal. All the arrears to Victoria Falls Municipality from July 2015 to the end of December 2015 for the three hotels were paid in full,” the hotel group said. The municipality said it acknowledged the difficulties faced by African Sun considering the difficulties in the business environment.

“Victoria Falls in its full special council meeting held on October 22, 2015 resolved to accept your proposal in its entirety contained in your letter dated October 9 2015. The council appreciates the finality of this matter, which was made possible by your commitment and sincerity in the discussion on the matter,” the council said.

African Sun, however, said that the only outstanding matter is that the municipality of Victoria Falls has not yet approved the proposed rate for 2016 for its three hotels.

Source: African Sun clears $200k Vic Falls debt (24/02/16).

‘165 days left before Kariba shuts down’

Kariba Dam is now left with capacity to generate power for only 165 days, unless significant water inflows are recorded in the next few months, a Zesa Holdings official has said.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
Speaking during a tour of Kariba Power Station last Friday, the power station’s general manager, Kenneth Maswera said water levels in the dam were now at 477,15m which is 1,65m above the minimum power generation threshold. He said these were the lowest levels recorded since the 1992 drought.
“If we are taking a cubic centimetre a day, it will take 165 days, but that is if we don’t get any water inflows,” he said.
“It looks like it has been almost constant, but the water levels are going down and it’s a fact. We have not received any significant inflows, basically the level is going to continue going down if we don’t get any water flows into the lake.”
Maswera said power generation at Kariba Hydropower Station had further declined to 285MW against a generation capacity of 750 megawatts (MW) due to
dwindling water levels in Kariba dam.
“We are 1,65m above the level to generate power and if we go below this level, we will not be able to generate. But there is enough water for fishing and other activities,” he said.
Maswera said Kariba power generation was constructed and designed to operate between 475,5m and 488,50m.
He said the expansion of Kariba South Power Station, which was expected to add 300MW into the national grid was now 40% complete.
The $533 million expansion project, which includes development costs to be met by Zimbabwe Power Company, is being undertaken by a Chinese firm, Sino Hydro and is targeted for completion by 2018.
According to reports, to date, China Exim Bank has disbursed the first tranche of about $100 million under the engineering procurement contract valued at $354 million.
Zimbabwe is generating 1 355MW, with Hwange producing 341MW, Kariba 285MW, Harare 17MW and Munyati 28MW. Imports contributed 450MW against a forecast demand of 1 375MW.
Zesa spokesperson, Fullard Gwasira said despite dwindling water levels at Kariba Dam, the power utility company was working on a number of measures to address power shortages, which include importation of 300MW of electricity from South Africa and another 40MW from Mozambique, Dema emergency diesel power plant and the solar water heating programme among many others.
Zambezi River Authority chief executive officer, Munyaradzi Munodawafa said the situation at Kariba was bad.
Kariba Dam services both Zambia and Zimbabwe and on a daily basis the power stations in the two countries consume between 900 to 1 000 cubic metres of water.
Munodawafa, however, said more rains were expected between this and next month and this will improve the water levels to sustain the two countries up to the winter period.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

'Cecil effect’ leaves park’s lion at risk of cull

Bubye Valley Conservancy says it may have to cull 200 lions due to overpopulation and "the Cecil effect"

By Peta Thornycroft in Bubye Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe
20 Feb 2016

It is the country where Cecil the lion was killed, sparking international anger against the American dentist who shot him.

The outcry over Walter Palmer’s killing of Cecil drove other big-game hunters away from Zimbabwe, fearful they too would attract the opprobrium of the public. But in what is being described as a side-effect of the affair, Zimbabwe’s largest wildlife area says it now finds itself suffering from an overpopulation of lions.

Bubye Valley Conservancy has more than 500 lions, the largest number in Zimbabwe’s diminishing wildlife areas.

It has warned that its lion population has become unsustainable and that it may even have to cull around 200 as a result of what is being called “the Cecil effect”.

Now Bubye is appealing for other institutions or wildlife sanctuaries to take some of its lions.

Conservationists estimate about half of Zimbabwe’s wildlife has disappeared since Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned land began in 2000, but Bubye has held on by attracting wealthy hunters whose fees support its wildlife work.

But last year’s shooting of Cecil, in a conservancy bordering Hwange National Parksparked a huge backlash against big-game hunting.

Plummeting oil prices have further led to a drop in the number of visitors from US states such as Texas, from where traditionally large numbers of hunters go to Zimbabwe.

Bubye’s lions are decimating populations of antelope, along with other animals such as giraffe, cheetah, leopards and wild dogs, after the driest summer on record kept grasses low and made the small game easy targets.

Blondie Leathem, general manager of Bubye Valley Conservancy, said: “I wish we could give about 200 of our lions away to ease the overpopulation. If anyone knows of a suitable habitat for them where they will not land up in human conflict, or in wildlife areas where they will not be beaten up because of existing prides, please let us know and help us raise the money to move them.”

In the Forties, there were thought to be as many as 450,000 lions on Earth, but today they are classed as “vulnerable”, with numbers feared as low as 20,000.

Conservationists fear that without a concerted push, particularly in high-risk areas of central and west Africa, their numbers could halve again in the next two decades because of human-animal conflict and reduced habit and food supplies.

Bubye, along with some game parks in neighbouring countries, has been bucking the trend, according to a recent study, with healthy lion populations in “small, fenced, intensively managed, funded reserves”.

The conservation area was founded 22 years ago by Charles Davy, the rancher father ofChelsy Davy, Prince Harry’s former girlfriend. It is now majority-owned by Dubai World, the investment fund of the wealthy emirate’s government.

Millions of pounds were spent fencing 2,000 square miles of land previously cleared of wildlife by decades of cattle farming. The fence was then electrified and hundreds of people were hired to protect wildlife imported to the park.

Bubye also supports schools and clinics in several districts and provides meat every month for people nearby.

When the Telegraph visited Bubye in early February a matriarch lioness called Matilda, her sisters and her latest litter of cubs were lazing in the shade under mopane trees.

Matilda – which was fitted with a radio collar by the Oxford University researchers that also collared Cecil – eats at least 10lb of meat every day.

Pieter Kat, director of Lion Aid, a UK-based charity, said contraception should have been introduced at the conservancy years ago. “It’s too late now,” he said. “There is nowhere in Africa which could take so many lions.”

Paul Bartels, a wildlife scientist from South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology, said female contraceptive implants used in smaller reserves would be impractical for Matilda’s clan.

“There are a lot of lions on that [Bubye] conservancy. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for contraception to make any real difference,” he said.

Oxford’s lion research project in Zimbabwe, which monitored Cecil, said that the Bubye conservancy was “a huge success story” in a region blighted by a lack of governmental help for its struggling wildlife sector.

Mr Leathem insisted he was not a hunter but a conservationist, and had no option but to maintain “sustainable” hunting to safeguard Bubye’s future.



Dead Poachers Found Floating In The Zambezi River

Two bodies of suspected Zambian poachers found floating on the Zambezi River on Valentine’s Day were retrieved by Zimbabwean police this week, days after they escaped an ambush.

By Judith Sibanda

Victoria Falls, February 20, 2016

The duo were part of a suspected poaching syndicate who escaped after exchanging gun fire with police in the Jambezi area on February 6.

Superintendent Dominic Sibanda, the officer commanding Victoria Falls police, said relatives the two men were in Zimbabwe to collect their bodies. "The two bodies were spotted on February 14  by spotted by fishermen who were at the Zambezi River near Jambezi,” he said.

“They reported the matter and we went to rescue them but we couldn't find them until yesterday (Thursday). 

“They were both naked and the other had both legs missing." 

Sibanda said the names of the deceased could not be released until they were positively identified by their relatives who had returned to Zambia to get proper documents.

He said an accomplice of the suspected poachers had admitted that the group had crossed into Zimbabwe to illegally hunt wild animals.

"Initially the suspected refused to cooperate but his eyes were guilty,” Sibanda said.

“We then interrogated him after finding the names of the six accused and it showed that they were together. 

“He admitted and said they had come to poach as it was their business.

He said the two deceased poachers’ relatives had asked for the bodies from the police.

"The families together with Zambian police came to our office this afternoon  (Friday ) seeking for release of  their and they indicated to us that one of the suspects who is still at large said they had died in the river after failing to cross,” Sibanda said.

“We told them that we had taken the bodies to Bulawayo. They are from Lusaka.  We sent them back to go and collect all their documents so that we release the bodies."

Meanwhile, one of the suspected members of the syndicate Chistopher Malasa Mandaya (35) appeared at the Victoria Falls Magistrates’ Court facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and dagga.

Mandaya is accused of  entering Zimbabwe illegally after he was arrested a fortnight ago in Jambezi.

He was not asked to plead to the charges when he appeared before Rangarirai Gakanye and was remanded in custody to February 22.

Prosecutor Listen Nare said Mandanya and five accomplices who were still at large were spotted by Jambezi villagers moving around the area carrying firearms.

On February 6, police laid an ambush at night and spotted the group.

Police fired warning shots and the suspects returned fire but Mandaya was eventually arrested.  

He was found in possession of 25 rounds of ammunition, two axes and butcher knives and two kilogrammes of dagga.

Source:Dead Zambian Poachers Found Floating In The Zambezi River (20/02/16)

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Zimparks to use drones to fight poachers

ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) officials are considering using drones, helicopters, sniffer dogs and surveillance cameras in fighting poachers in country's game parks. 

Zimparks director-general Edison Chidziya told Parliament Monday on the plans.

"We are working with other law enforcement agencies on regulatory frameworks on use of drones.

"There are various suppliers of such technology and once the regulatory framework is finalised, we will look at using such technology."

"We managed to detect 8 000 incursions in Parks estates since last year and 145 poachers. 45 poachers were accounted for, as well as 29 poaching foreign nationals. We have seen a trend where local involvement in poaching is increasing."

In 2013 a total of 105 wild animals were lost through poisoning in Hwange, while in 2015 about 100 animals were poisoned with 32 lost at one particular site.


Source: Zimparks to use drones to fight poachers (16/02/16)

Victoria Falls game fence causes divisions

Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter

A WAR is looming among tour operators in Victoria Falls after a businessman fenced off part of Chamabondo Forest in a development that will affect tourism activities as an animal corridor has been blocked.

Proprietors of Landela Complex which runs Landela Lodge in Masue, have erected a fence across Chamabondo Forest in a move some operators have said would push them out of business.

The same land has been earmarked by the government for establishment of a recreational theme park between Victoria Falls International Airport and Masue River.

Two tour operators Lion Encounter and Adventure Zone who are leasing an area in Chamabondo Forest have since been told to vacate as they have been encircled by the fence.

Landela Complex owner businessman Stewart Cranswick represented by his consultant Trevor Lane erected the fence stretching from the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road at Masue Bridge to Stanley and Livingstone Lodge more than 4km away.

The two-metre high fence seen by The Chronicle yesterday, also cuts across Masue River up to the railway line along the highway and extends westwards towards Nakavango area.

Even game drives in Chamabondo National Park operated by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will be affected as the fence closes off the game area.

Affected tour operators have approached the Affirmative Action Group over the issue complaining that no Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out in terms of the Environmental Management Act.

Brent Williams from Adventure Zone said no consultations were done.

“We wonder what could be happening because there was no consultation as we only saw a fence being erected.

“They’ve closed the game corridor and we wonder if we’ll still have access to our area of operation because that’s all we need,” he said.

Naison Webb from Lion Encounter confirmed that they had been given a notice to vacate.
“We were told last year and because land isn’t ours we’re looking for alternative space for our activities.

“If we fail to get one that means our business will be affected,” said Webb.

Lane said Lion Encounter and Adventure Zone would be removed from the area.

“I don’t know if any other operators will be affected but those operating from there have been told to seek alternative places.

“I can’t explain further because that’s not my land as I’m a consultant for Cranswick,” he said.
Authorities at Stanley and Livingstone lodge refused to allow Lane to join the fence to theirs.

“I don’t want to be seen commenting for now but we couldn’t allow their fence to be joined to ours.
“They also wanted their solar panels in our premises but we couldn’t allow that,” said wildlife manager at Stanley and Livingstone, Ian Dupreez.

AAG Victoria Falls chapter vice president Tonderai Mutasa said there were fears of fierce animal-human conflict as wildlife will now be forced to cross between Fuller Forest and Chamabondo through residential areas.

Source: Game fence irks Victoria Falls tour operators (10/02/16)

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Tourist arrivals up 9 percent

Tourist arrivals were largely driven by African visitors who pass through Zimbabwe.

Preliminary statistics show that Zimbabwe recorded a 9 percent increase in tourist arrivals last year to 2 million, largely driven by African visitors who pass through Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke told delegates at the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism convention last week that data from the country’s smaller ports of entry is still to be collated. “I will give you the figures, which are still preliminary. In 2014, we received 1,8 million. In 2015, our arrivals increased by 9 percent and we are now slightly over 2 million,” Mr Kaseke said.
“The figures are, however, preliminary in the sense that other figures from the smaller border posts have not been collated,” he said

The ZTA chief executive said Africa contributed 1,76 million, Americas 76 751, Asia 35 000, Europe 149 000, Middle East 3 990 and Oceania 25 000 from 26 000 in 2014. “We are happy with that performance. We want to look at the receipts from that 2 million to see whether it contributed the same percentage in economic growth terms.

“Our major worry, which we have been talking about for a long time in the ministry are arrivals from outsource markets . . . the overseas markets. We use 1999 as our base line because that is when we received the highest ever number of tourists in the country, which was almost 2,5 million,” he said.

And in 1999, overseas, (Europe, America, Asia and Middle East contributed 30 percent to the arrivals but in 2015 they accounted for just 14 percent. “The issue is quite disturbing. We would be happy if we could recover that market.” This is because the visitors have an average expenditure of $1 600 person per visit while African visitors spend on average $150 per person per visit.

Mr Kaseke said the country’s tourism receipts have grown from about $500 million in 2009 to about $827 million in 2014. It is expected that receipts will show an increase for the just ended year.
While Mr Kaseke would not give regional comparisons using latest figures for 2015, he gave insights of the performance of countries in the regions, which is dominated by neighbouring South Africa.

The ZTA boss said that in terms of regional market share South Africa received the largest chunk at 42 percent in 2014, Botswana and Mozambique 9 percent each, Angola and Zimbabwe (8) each, Swaziland and Tanzania (5) each, Malawi and Zambia (4) each, Angola (3), Lesotho (2) and DRC (1).

Globally, Africa recorded a 3 percent drop to 53 million international tourist arrivals last year as the rest of the world recorded a surge in visitors, latest statistics from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) show.

According to the UNWTO Tourism Barometer, the North African region, at 8 percent, accounted for the biggest drop in arrivals on the continent while sub-Saharan Africa recorded a one percent decrease.

The drop in arrivals in North Africa was likely influenced by disturbances in the region and a ban on international flights to Egypt in the last quarter of the year by countries such as Russia and Britain after a plane carrying tourists crashed.

“Limited available data for Africa points to a 3 percent decrease in international arrivals, reaching a total of 53 million,” the UNWTO said, noting that availability of data on the continent remained scarce.

“In North Africa arrivals declined by 8 percent and in sub-Saharan Africa by one percent though the latter returned to positive growth in the second half of the year.”

The UNWTO, however, anticipates that Africa will rebound this year, registering a growth of between 2 and 5 percent in arrivals.

Despite the slump registered in Africa, overall international tourist arrivals surged 4,4 percent to 1,2 billion in 2015.

Source: Tourist arrivals up 9 percent (15/02/16)

Monday, 15 February 2016

Demining activities underfunded

Zimbabwe - The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence has urged the government to allocate more resources towards clearing landmines, which continue to pose a great risk to humans and livestock, particularly along border areas.
VENERANDA LANGA
The committee chairperson, Ronald Muderedzwa told the National Assembly on Tuesday that shortage of manpower and equipment in the Defence ministry hampered demining activities.“Other challenges experienced include insects, namely the morphine flies, which produce an irritating sound to the ear, thereby reducing the rate of concentration for the deminers.”
Muderedzwa said explosive remnants of the war occasionally injured people and animals, while also negatively affecting tourism.
The worst affected areas include Victoria Falls to Mlibizi, Mukumbura to Rwenya, Sheba Forest to Beacon Hill, Burma Valley, Rusitu to Muzite Mission, Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner and Border Streams.
The army demining squad was currently being assisted by organisations such as the Norwegian People’s Aid, the United States government and donations from other European countries.
The committee said the $100 000 allocated for the demining exercise each financial year was too little and could not sustain such an enormous programme.
“Government should engage the donor community to assist in the clearing of landmines, as a matter of urgency. Compensation for landmine victims should be honoured in terms of the War Victims Compensation Act. Ordinary civilians living in the border areas, where landmines were laid continue to bear the brunt of the war, long after the country was liberated,” Muderedzwa said.
Chiredzi South MP Callisto Gwanetsa (Zanu PF) said his constituency was one of the worst affected, citing Crooks Corner, which is a 53 kilometre-long minefield stretching to Sango Border Post.
“The area in my constituency affected by landmines is 40 000 hectares. You cannot farm, practice ranching or tourism. People are dying, and if they die or get injured in that area you cannot remove them. They rot there. If domestic animals stray into the area, they die there, he said.
Gwanetsa said more than 50 people in the constituency had been injured.
Buhera West MP Oliver Mandipaka (Zanu PF) suggested that MPs must contribute $100 each towards the demining exercise and to assist the victims.
Source: Demining activities underfunded (14/02/16)

Tourism arrivals increase: Kaseke

Zimbabwe recorded a 9% increase in tourist arrivals in 2015. The 2015 figures shot to 2 056 588 compared to 1 880 028 for 2014, driven by visitors from the American region, an official has said.
Giving his presentation on current and future trends in travel and tourism  in Zimbabwe at the 2016 Tourism Convention held in Victoria Falls last week, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said the industry had started showing signs of recovery. 
Compared to 2014 figures, America increased its contribution by 15%, Oceanic (13%), followed by Africa and Europe with 10% and 9% respectively. Middle East dropped by 38%, as did Asia by 16%.
However, Kaseke noted that poor quality, quantity and lack of diversity continued to dog the tourism sector in Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe has become a very expensive destination vis-a-vis our competitors in the region. [There is] very poor service in the tourism industry [and] personnel lacks passion in serving customers, a major key to success in tourism business,” he said.
He said brand Zimbabwe was not doing very well in major source markets and there was poor destination accessibility.
“[There is] lack of adequate and quality transport services [local, regional and international], and also an absence of a strong national airline, poor facilitation at ports, particularly Beitbridge, and also poor access to attractions — dysfunctional feeder roads,” Kaseke said.
He said there was lack of real skills to drive efficient service in the industry.
Kaseke said the industry aimed to surpass 3,5 million in arrivals by 2020.
It also intended to increase average length of stay to nine days and eight nights by 2020 from the four days and three nights in 2014,” he said.
The industry also wants to increase tourism receipts from $827 million to more than $3 billion, as well as increase tourism contribution to GDP from 11% in 2014 to 15% by 2020
It also aims to increase the contribution of tourism to direct, indirect and induced employment from about 180 000 in 2014 to over 350 000 by 2020.

Vic Falls residents accuse council of corruption

VICTORIA Falls residents have accused the Zanu PF controlled council of corruption and ignoring input from ratepayers when formulating budgets. The residents made the allegations at a heated meeting organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe in the resort town on Wednesday.
BY Nokuthaba Dlamini
Trymore Ndolo, a local activist said the local authority often ignored input from ratepayers when formulating important policies and the annual budget.
“They make decisions without involvement of the local community and they are undermining good corporate governance,” Ndolo said.
“The government put a strategic plan — ZimAsset that governs even the local council, but it is a pity that they go against that programme.”
He said residents had no say in the local authority’s proposed $20 million budget for this year as there were no consultations as per government policy. Ndolo said council refused to revise the budget before submitting it to the government for approval despite residents raising objections.
“We are happy because we heard that it was sent back for revision.
“We agreed that the (council beer gardens) were not going to be leased and suddenly we read it in the newspapers that they have resolved to offer them to employees Even the salary cut which was a directive from the government is yet to be implemented,” he said.
The government is yet to approve council’s budget for this year after council failed to heed a directive to cap the town clerk’s salary at $3 200.
Last month council said it had resolved to lease out its two loss making beer gardens to employees because they had become a burden for the local authority.
Another resident, Vusumuzi Moyo said council had also ignored residents’ concerns over the sale of housing stands, which were deemed too expensive for locals.
The residents said they feared to report corruption cases because there was a threat of victimisation for whistle blowers.
They resolved to set up a committee to monitor council expenditure to curb corruption. Misheck Dube said failure by council to attend the meeting showed that they did not take residents’ concerns seriously.
“Why are the council officials not here? We want them here because we know each individual’s scandal and we will confront them.
“Now they are saying (newly released housing) stands go for $50 000 each, but who can raise that money within a year except for a thief. They only want to say they offered us and we did not take the offers. They will take the stands and sell them to outsiders at cheaper prices,” said Dube.
Last month, council was in the eye of a storm after it advertised housing stands worth over $50 000 where buyers were expected to earn at least $5 000 to be eligible to buy the land.
Residents claimed the move was a ploy to sell the 200 low-density housing stands to outsiders and the rich because few locals could afford the prices.
According to a statement by council, the stands from Aerodrome Extension (BB7) were at least 2 000 square metres and their prices range from $32 000 to $50 000.
Meanwhile, Transparency International Zimbabwe officials encouraged residents to report corruption and pledged to help those who felt cheated by council.

Qatar, Etihad to Fly Into Victoria Falls

By Golden Sibanda and Costa Mano

Victoria Falls — Qatar and Etihad are among a string of global airlines lining up to start flights into Victoria Falls following the extensive upgrade of the Victoria Falls International Airport to modernise and increase its capacity.

The $150 million upgrade to increase the airport's capacity and give it a new modern look has been touted as a game changer that will allow the biggest, reputable global airlines to fly into the resort town and boost arrivals.

Initially designed to handle just 500 000 travellers per year, the extensive upgrades have increased the airport's capacity to 2 million while making it possible for the biggest airliners to land at the airport.

The expansion followed realisation by Government just before the turn of the century that the life of the country's old airports were coming to an end and required upgrade before demand outweighed capacity.

Victoria Falls International Airport manager Mr Ronnie Masawi said on Wednesday that Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Lufthansa had indicated willingness to fly into the world renowned resort.

Mr Masawi was updating delegates to the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism Convention on progress made in upgrading and refurbishing the resort town's airport. There has also been interest from Ethiopian Airways, Kenyan Airways and Emirates who have indicated that they would consider adding another aircraft through Victoria Falls to Harare when traffic increases.

"We may not necessarily get a new airline tomorrow, airlines will first code share, which is one way to study the market. Right now Etihad have got a code share with British Airways. Recently Lufthansa got a code share arrangement with South African Airways to Victoria Falls," he said.

"So in other words we already have Lufthansa coming to Victoria Falls; Etihad and Qatar also. So what they do is that when they have built the market to a sizeable number, they then introduce their own aircraft."

Presently, airlines flying into Victoria Falls include Namibian Airways, fastjet, British Airways, Fly Africa and Air Zimbabwe, which could not use its bigger aircraft such as the Boeing 767 prior to the upgrades.

The upgrades should have been completed in September last year, but exceeded the initially targeted period due to unforeseen challenges.

It is now expected that outstanding works will be done by mid-year. The land side upgrades of the airport involved construction of the new exquisite and modern terminal building to match global standards.

This also included water and sewer reticulation, new car park and roadworks and the new airport village sewer system. The air side upgrades entailed the construction of a new runway, four kilometres long and 60 metres wide. Previously, Mr Masawi said, the airport had a runway that was only 2,2 kilometres long.

"We could only land up to an A319, which is what South African Airways are using, Boeing 737-400, what British Airways Com Air are using or Boeing 737-200, which is what Air Zimbabwe was using before we started using the new runway.

The new runway has also been fitted with lights that were previously not there, which will enable the airport to progressively transition into a 24 hour operation based on demand from increasing traffic.

Source: Qatar, Etihad to Fly Into Victoria Falls (12/02/16)

Friday, 12 February 2016

Game fence irks Vic Falls tour operators

A war is looming among tour operators in Victoria Falls after a businessman fenced off part of Chamabondo Forest in a development that will affect tourism activities as an animal corridor has been blocked.

Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter, The Chronicle

Proprietors of Landela Complex which runs Landela Lodge in Masue, have erected a fence across Chamabondo Forest in a move some operators have said would push them out of business.

The same land has been earmarked by the government for establishment of a recreational theme park between Victoria Falls International Airport and Masue River.

Two tour operators Lion Encounter and Adventure Zone who are leasing an area in Chamabondo Forest have since been told to vacate as they have been encircled by the fence.

Landela Complex owner businessman Stewart Cranswick represented by his consultant Trevor Lane erected the fence stretching from the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road at Masue Bridge to Stanley and Livingstone Lodge more than 4km away.

The two-metre high fence seen by The Chronicle yesterday, also cuts across Masue River up to the railway line along the highway and extends westwards towards Nakavango area.

Even game drives in Chamabondo National Park operated by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority will be affected as the fence closes off the game area.

Affected tour operators have approached the Affirmative Action Group over the issue complaining that no Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out in terms of the Environmental Management Act.

Brent Williams from Adventure Zone said no consultations were done.

“We wonder what could be happening because there was no consultation as we only saw a fence being erected.

“They’ve closed the game corridor and we wonder if we’ll still have access to our area of operation because that’s all we need,” he said.

Naison Webb from Lion Encounter confirmed that they had been given a notice to vacate.

“We were told last year and because land isn’t ours we’re looking for alternative space for our activities.

“If we fail to get one that means our business will be affected,” said Webb.

Lane said Lion Encounter and Adventure Zone would be removed from the area.

“I don’t know if any other operators will be affected but those operating from there have been told to seek alternative places.

“I can’t explain further because that’s not my land as I’m a consultant for Cranswick,” he said.

Authorities at Stanley and Livingstone lodge refused to allow Lane to join the fence to theirs.

“I don’t want to be seen commenting for now but we couldn’t allow their fence to be joined to ours.

“They also wanted their solar panels in our premises but we couldn’t allow that,” said wildlife manager at Stanley and Livingstone, Ian Dupreez.

AAG Victoria Falls chapter vice president Tonderai Mutasa said there were fears of fierce animal-human conflict as wildlife will now be forced to cross between Fuller Forest and Chamabondo through residential areas.

Source: Game fence irks Vic Falls tour operators (10/02/16)

Thursday, 11 February 2016

African Sun offloads contract workers

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

HOTEL group African Sun Limited has terminated contracts for dozens of its workers as part of measures to streamline its operations.

About 30 workers from Elephant Hills Resort who were on contract stopped work on January 31 after being told that their contracts would not be renewed.

Some had worked for between 15 and 20 years.

Those affected are from guest services maintenance, housekeeping, grounds, food and beverages among others.

Besides Elephant Hills Resort, others were sent home from other branches such as Kingdom and Hwange Safari Lodge, which are all under new management — Legacy Group.

The group’s board a few days ago rendered about 40 other workers jobless after it resolved to shut down operations at its loss making Beitbridge Express Hotel.

This was after the hotel recorded a loss amounting to $217,910 for the year ending December 31, 2015 and a debt accumulation of $507,910 for the past two years.

Responding to e-mail questions, the group’s chief executive officer, Edwin Shangwa, confirmed the terminations but could not be drawn into giving numbers.

“African Sun Limited group undertook and concluded a major retrenchment exercise in August 2015.

The company continues to review its business model and entire operations spectrum and retrenchment is always a possibility if any of the viability assessments underway render it the inevitable option,” he said.

Shangwa said termination of contracts was one of the many ways adopted by the hotel group to streamline its operations towards a robust turnaround.

Last year the group joined other firms across the country who sent home hundreds of workers following a Supreme Court ruling that gave employers the green light to terminate contracts on three months’ notice.

“Retrenchment is a legal option available to any management wherever and whenever they deem it unavoidable in the course of managing shareholder investments. It’s, however, not an overarching and permanent strategy but is contingent upon prevailing and internal and external business environmental conditions,” said Shangwa.

He said business was on the negative as evidenced by the closure of the Beitbridge Express Hotel.
“Pertaining to the Beitbridge Express Hotel closure, the African Sun Limited board took a well-considered view that the Beitbridge market would be untenable for the continued sustenance of our hotel there solely on an assessment relevant and restricted to that market,” Shangwa explained.

“The Beitbridge market has seen an exponential slump in demand coupled with an oversupply of rooms in the last three years. In their assessment, the board concluded that the hotel was unlikely to return to profitably in the foreseeable future and keeping it open would only have eroded value for the broader group.”

The group also runs Holiday Inn, Troutbeck Resort and Monomotapa Hotels.

The tourism industry has been facing viability challenges for sometime in the wake of suppressed arrivals. The situation has also been blamed on high charges for services with players seeking the scrapping of the 15 percent tourism levy, which was introduced last year.

Source: African Sun offloads contract workers (10/02/16)

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Man survives Victoria Falls Bridge fall

By Leonard Ncube

VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE – A National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employee almost plunged into the Zambezi River after he fell off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Shava, whose age could not be readily established but is believed to be in his 40’s, was rushed to Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo in a critical condition.

Witnesses said Shava was rescued by his colleagues on the lower ramp of the bridge.

NRZ spokesperson Fanuel Masikati said they were investigating what could have caused the accident as safety measures “have always been in place to prevent accidents.”

“I can confirm that we received a report about one of our employees who got injured while on duty at the Victoria Falls Bridge. We’re investigating the cause of the accident because we’ve never had such an incident since we started working on the bridge as there are safety harness belts and nets which should be in place whenever a team is working,” he said.

Masikati said Shava was an experienced worker who had spent more than 10 years with the NRZ.

The bridge is jointly maintained by NRZ and its railway counterparts in Zambia.

Shava was working with about six other workers when he allegedly tried to scale up the bridge, but lost his grip and slipped.

Added Masikati: “There are safety nets and harness belts and we’re actually shocked about what happened because these things are meant to prevent such incidents. None of our staff on the ground has given full details and investigations are being carried out.

“In all our workshops, safety comes first and we really have to investigate this.”

The Chronicle visited the accident scene yesterday and there were no workers on site.

Source: Man survives Victoria Falls Bridge fall (09/02/16)

Monday, 8 February 2016

Victoria Falls to see recovery in 2016

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, experienced a 20% drop in tourist arrivals in 2015 compared with 2014 according to the Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO). However, operators are confident that 2016 will be better, thanks in part to the new airport.
Clement Mukwasi, EATSO President, told Zimbabwe’s NewsDay the after effects of the Ebola virus and a tax on foreign tourists were the main causes of the drop.
Although tour operators and product owners have confirmed that tourism has been down, Africa Albida Tourism CE Ross Kennedy argues tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls were not down 20%. "According to hotel statistics kept by ten leading hotels in Victoria Falls, room occupancy was only down 2% between 2014 and 2015, and entry numbers to the Victoria Falls Rainforest were down 2,6% year on year.
Kennedy adds that he did notice a downturn in tourism in 2015, but this was rescued in November and December by a significant rise in visitor numbers. He says: “If it had not been for this surge in the last couple of months in 2015, tourist numbers would have been 8% down for the year.”

Trish Mambinge, spokesperson for Shearwater Victoria Falls, also reported that numbers were down. She told Tourism Update that Ebola had been the main reason cited for cancelled trips.
Sally Wynn, Director Wild Zambezi, agreed that the Ebola-scare had had a major impact, especially since international travellers tended to plan well in advance. “People also believe that the SA visa situation has had an effect, as well as the dropping rates of the euro, the Australian dollar and the rand against the US$,” she added.
“We are quite positive about 2016,” said Mambinge. “Future bookings are looking good and there has also been a great interest shown by the big markets that had stopped or reduced travel to Zimbabwe.”
“Obviously we hope for better, especially with the new Vic Falls International Airport coming online,” said Wynn. She added that an improvement in SA’s visa situation and a ‘properly sorted’ KAZA UniVisa between the countries in the region, would also boost tourism.
She warned, however, that the high value of the US$ compared with other currencies could be challenging for Zimbabwe. “It is difficult for tourism here to cut costs in the face of high living expenses and the current uncertain political and economic environment.”
Source: Victoria Falls to see recovery in 2016 (02/02/16)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

One of Africa’s Biggest Dams Is Falling Apart

Kariba Dam Troubles

By JACQUES LESLIE

Source: One of Africa’s Biggest Dams Is Falling Apart (2/2/16)

The new year has not been kind to the hydroelectric-dam industry. On January 11th, the New York Times reported that Mosul Dam, the largest such structure in Iraq, urgently requires maintenance to prevent its collapse, a disaster that could drown as many as five hundred thousand people downstream and leave a million homeless. Four days earlier, the energy minister of Zambia declared that Kariba Dam, which straddles the border between his country and Zimbabwe, holding back the world’s largest reservoir, was in “dire” condition. An unprecedented drought threatens to shut down the dam’s power production, which supplies nearly half the nation’s electricity.

The news comes as more and more of the biggest hydroelectric-dam projects around the world are being cancelled or postponed. In 2014, researchers at Oxford University reviewed the financial performance of two hundred and forty-five dams and concluded that the “construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return.” Other forms of energy generation—wind, solar, and miniature hydropower units that can be installed inside irrigation canals—are becoming competitive, and they cause far less social and environmental damage. And dams are particularly ill-suited to climate change, which simultaneously requires that they be larger (to accommodate the anticipated floods) and smaller (to be cost-effective during the anticipated droughts).

Mosul Dam’s predicament is partly a result of the ongoing war; many maintenance workers have not returned there since August of 2014, when ISIS fighters briefly took control. (Iraqi and Kurdish forces soon regained it.) But the main issue is that, like many such dams, the project shouldn’t exist in the first place. Opened in 1986, it was built on unstable gypsum bedrock, requiring grout to be constantly injected into the foundation to prevent the dam’s collapse. That work has ceased. In 2006, long before ISIS began making headlines, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called Mosul Dam “the most dangerous dam in the world.”

Kariba’s difficulties are more complicated. It has been nearly incapacitated by ongoing drought, which has lowered the reservoir’s volume to twelve per cent of its usual capacity. But if the reservoir is refilled, the dam faces the possibility of collapse. It was built in the late nineteen-fifties, and in the years since water flowing through the dam’s six floodgates has carved a three-hundred-foot-deep pit, or plunge pool, at its base. The plunge pool extends to within a hundred and thirty feet of the dam’s foundation; if it reaches the foundation, the dam will collapse. That seems hard to imagine now, with the reservoir at a record-low level. But the Zambezi River Basin, on which the dam sits, is the most susceptible of Africa’s thirteen basins to exceptional droughts and floods, and climate change is intensifying both.

Kariba’s collapse, like Mosul’s, would constitute an epochal event in the history of energy development—the dam industry’s Chernobyl. The ensuing torrent would be four times bigger than the Zambezi’s biggest recorded flood, in 1958, and would release enough water to knock over another major dam three hundred miles downstream, in Mozambique. At least three million people live in the flood’s path; most would die or lose their crops or possessions. About forty per cent of the electricity-generating capacity of twelve southern African nations would be eliminated.

The dam, four hundred and twenty feet tall and nearly two thousand feet wide, was built with financing from the World Bank to provide power for the copper mines of what was then Northern Rhodesia. The designers intended to make the dam impervious to a one-in-ten-thousand-year flood, but their calculations were based on only three decades of Zambezi flow data—a period too short to permit credible forecasting. This flaw became apparent in 1957, when the site, still under construction, was hit with a flood bigger than the designers’ worst-case projection. The planners hurriedly enlarged the spillway, but in 1958 the project was hit by another flood, twice as big as the previous one, so the spillway was expanded again. More recent projections, cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, indicate that the Zambezi River Basin will experience still drier and more prolonged droughts and even bigger floods in years to come.

Since the nineteen-nineties, Kariba’s operators have been allowed to open only three of the dam’s six floodgates at a time, for fear of enlarging the plunge pool. If the reservoir fills to a dangerous level, the operators face two options: allow water to flow over the top of the dam and tumble down its face, threatening the foundation, or, more likely, open more than three floodgates, causing the plunge pool to expand. To head off a catastrophe, the World Bank and other international lenders agreed in November of 2014 to provide a loan of nearly three hundred million dollars to repair it, stating that the project requires “immediate attention.”

But “immediate” means decades, not years. “It takes a long time to carry out the necessary due diligence and secure the financing for a complex project like this,” Munyaradzi Munodawafa, the chief executive of the Zambezi River Authority, which operates Kariba, told me in an e-mail. “We’re looking at a fifteen- to twenty-year process, in which we are five years under way.” To repair the dam, workers will enlarge the plunge pool downstream, to reduce erosion near the foundation. But it’s not certain to work, and major flooding could occur before the repairs are completed.

The World Bank and other international financiers like dams because they seem to offer large-scale solutions to energy and water shortages. Kariba is just one of more than two thousand large dams in Africa; Zimbabwe, one of the world’s poorest nations, has at least two hundred and fifty-four. But maintaining a dam is expensive—and much less popular than building one. Even in affluent countries such as the United States—whose dam infrastructure is in sufficient disrepair to have earned a “D” rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers, in 2013—maintenance is often neglected; it’s not likely to fare better in impoverished, corruption-ridden countries such as Zimbabwe or Iraq. Dams can’t be drained, and dismantling them can be as costly as building them. It’s the trap of Industrial Age technology: once mechanized systems supplant natural ones, they must be managed in perpetuity, or else they break down.

Source: One of Africa’s Biggest Dams Is Falling Apart (2/2/16)