Footsteps Through Time

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

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Zimbabwe's ‘Disneyland’ At Victoria Falls Gets Beijing Investment

Zimbabwe just got one step closer to its dream of building a “Disneyland in Africa,” at the site of Victoria Falls, one of the world's biggest waterfalls. Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi tells Newsweek that the country has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Chinese investors to carry out a feasibility study and draw up a masterplan for the project, first proposed in 2013 as a $300 million-park with hotels, entertainment parks and restaurants.

Mzembi says that the project will contribute to building a $5 billion tourism industry in Zimbabwe by 2020. That would mean a five-fold increase on 2016's figures, when the government stated 2016 that tourism was worth $1 billion.

The United States, European Union and others imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe following the implementation of its controversial land reform program in 2000—which included the forcible seizure of white-owned farms—and Mzembi says that had a devastating effect on tourism.

However, the minister believes that Zimbabwe’s standing in the international community has now improved, and that the Victoria Falls project can help to revamp its image. “Tourism is a peace sector and tourism is a peace bridge. It has worked for us very well,” Mzembi tells Newsweek. “We are not the bad boy of the world in Zimbabwe any more, not at all.”

China is Africa’s single largest trade partner and has invested hugely in infrastructure projects on the continent, such as a $4 billion railway linking major cities in Kenya.

Relations between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe are close. During a 2015 visit to Zimbabwe, Xi signed multiple economic deals, including one for more than $1 billion of Chinese investment in Zimbabwe’s largest thermal power plant. That year China also canceled $40 million of debt owed by Zimbabwe; in response, Zimbabwe made the Chinese currency, the yuan, legal tender in the country.

Mzembi declines to identify the Chinese investors, but indicates that they would be from a state-run company. He also says that while the Chinese are carrying out the initial preparations, he has received “so many proposals running into billions and billions of dollars from potential investors,” including in the U.S., South Korea and the U.K. “We are not closing anybody out,” says Mzembi, while admitting that the Chinese have a “head start.”

The minister says that the project will focus around a modern conference center, with hotels hotels, villas and a museum also at the site. Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so Mzembi says that construction will take place at a safe distance so as not to interfere with the natural features of the waterfall.

“It’s time to mobilize that destination and make it compete with other waterfall projects like Niagara, Iguazu and elsewhere,” says Mzembi. Niagara Falls is located on the U.S.-Canada border, while Iguazu Falls is on the border between Argentina and Brazil.

The project marks an attempt to rebrand the international image of Zimbabwe, which has been largely associated with economic malaise and authoritarian rule under President Mugabe, who has been in power since the country’s independence in 1980. Mugabe, 93, is standing in Zimbabwe’s next general election in 2018, despite widespread protests in recent months.

Zimbabwe’s economy is currently in a slump: Unemployment is high, and a crippling shortage of U.S. dollars prompted the reserve bank to start printing its own pseudo-currency—known as bond notes—in 2016. The country has not had its own currency since the Zimbabwean dollar became defunct in 2009 following a period of massive hyperinflation that meant the price of a loaf of bread rose to billions of dollars. The introduction of bond notes has raised fears that the country may be sliding towards another period of inflation.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe increased to 2.06 million in 2015, up from 1.88 million in 2014, according to the latest report from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. More than four out of five arrivals in Zimbabwe came from elsewhere in Africa, but the southern African country also has big tourism markets in the United States and United Kingdom.

Zimbabwe opened a new international airport at Victoria Falls in December 2016, which it expects to handle 1.5 million passengers per year.

The tourism ministry wants the area to become a “regional hub” for foreign visitors to southern Africa: Victoria Falls itself lies on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is also close to Botswana, which is popular with foreign tourists undertaking safaris.

Source: ZIMBABWE'S ‘DISNEYLAND’ AT VICTORIA FALLS GETS BEIJING INVESTMENT (22/6/17)

More: Govt Says Signs 'Disneyland in Africa' Agreement With Chinese Funders (22/6/17)
   $460m Disneyland Vic Falls investor found (3/1/15)
   African 'Disneyland' still planned for Victoria Falls (22/6/14)
   Zimbabwe To Convert Victoria Falls Into Garden of Eden (3/9/13)
   Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (28/8/13)
   Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards (22/6/13)

Zim signs Victoria Falls 'Disneyland in Africa' deal with Chinese developers

The government has signed a comprehensive agreement with unnamed Chinese investors for the construction of its 'Disneyland in Africa', a tourism and conference theme park in the resort town of Victoria Falls, the tourism minister said on Wednesday.
In 2013, the impoverished southern African nation said it had set aside 300 hectares of land to build a state-of-the-art conference centre to house hotels, businesses, shopping malls, banks, exhibition and entertainment facilities such as casinos near the Victoria Falls International Airport.
The theme park, whose costs have been put at $460 million, is seen as crucial to rebranding the country dogged by perceptions of political volatility and human rights abuses, using the formula that has worked in California, Florida in the United States and Paris in France.
"We have signed an overarching agreement with some Chinese developers for a master plan to develop 300ha of land between the (Victoria Falls) airport and Masue River. We need to drive the convention business and direct traffic to ourselves," Mzembi told journalists at a press conference.
"Already we are looking at 2020 where we are dreaming of a $5 billion tourism sector in Victoria Falls alone." said Minister Mzembi.
Source: Govt Says Signs 'Disneyland in Africa' Agreement With Chinese Funders (22/6/17)
   Zimbabwe To Convert Victoria Falls Into Garden of Eden (3/9/13)
   Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (28/8/13)
   Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards (22/6/13)

Monday, 19 June 2017

'No more electricity cuts for Zimbabwe'

THE Government has assured the nation that the country will not be cut off by regional power suppliers after Zesa settled part of the debt it owed South Africa's Eskom and Mozambique's Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB).

Last month the two regional power producers, especially Eskom threatened to switch off Zimbabwe if Zesa had failed to settle an outstanding power import bill of $43 million by 31 May.

The country which consumes an average 1 400MW daily against a generation capacity of 980MW, imports about 300kW from Eskom while HCB chips in with 50MW.

In an interview on the sidelines of the commissioning of Hwange Power Station (HPS) ash handling plant on Wednesday, Energy and Energy Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge said there was no need to worry about power shortages as the country has made the right arrangements to ensure that there is enough power.

"The impasse between us and our external suppliers of electricity was resolved, we made a substantial payment over the past weeks and we have agreed on payment terms for the remaining balance, our aim is to clear the debt," said Dr Undenge.

The minister, however, could not be drawn to reveal how much Zesa has paid to avert the situation. Due to foreign currency shortages, Zesa that had presented a payment plan which included paying $89 million between January and April failed to honour the agreement resulting in Eskom's threats to cut supplies. Zesa however, managed to pay $46 million with the payment plan including last year's arrears.

Dr Undenge described the electricity generation in the country as stable saying five units at Hwange Thermal Power Station were running, churning out 560MW with the sixth unit which was undergoing a major overhaul expected to be online in September.

"We are now at five units in service and today (Wednesday) we were producing 560MW which is quite commendable. We expect the resumption of Unit 6 which is going through a major overhaul to be back in service in September then we will further increase power generation.

"Yes, of course we have a deficit due to the fact that at Kariba Power Station the water levels are still low but improving. Last year our generation was limited to 285MW but the Zambezi River Authority increased our allocation of water so we are now producing at an average of 380MW," he said.

HPS has an installed capacity is 920 MW while Kariba Hydro is at 750 MW. Dr Undenge said the Government was prioritising local generation to reduce imports in the long run.

"Nationally we still have a deficit on a daily basis, the average is 1 500 MW but in winter that increases and that is the period we are in right now. We will supplement by importing from Eskom and Cahora Bassa to fill that deficit. We have been importing an average of 50MW from Hydro Cahora Bassa while from Eskom it varies. Our imports increase during the off peak period and we cut down during the peak period that's when we up our generation here."

Source: 'No more electricity cuts for Zimbabwe' (18/6/17)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

10 elephants poisoned with cyanide - Hwange, Zimbabwe

Nine adult elephants and one calf have been poisoned with cyanide around Zimbabwe’s largest wildlife area, the government’s Hwange National Park.

Four of the poisoned elephants died near the south of the Park and their tusks were taken.

The others, including a mother and her calf were found in two areas further north and may have been poisoned last weekend and the poachers had not yet returned to hack out the tusks from the dead animals

Trevor Lane from the Bhejane Trust, which monitors much wildlife activity in north western Zimbabwe, said early Tuesday that government rangers from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority were following up.

”Parks went out there quickly and energetically and I am sure they will make progress and produce results as they are very determined. The poachers left buckets with cyanide mixed with salt which have been recovered. We know some vultures will have been poisoned as well, but we are not yet sure how many

"We should expect more poaching this year because people are so poor in this bad economic situation.”
The first case of cyanide poisoning of elephants in Zimbabwe emerged in 2013 and about 100 corpses were found in the south of the park by hunters who took extensive photographs of the dead animals and then helped Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers follow up. 

Several poachers were arrested and were sentenced up to ten years in jail.

There were several other incidents of cyanide poisoning in that area since then, but Lane and others, such as elephant counter, Colin Gillies said cyanide poisoning had declined in the last year.

“I am very sad to hear about this latest incident. We hoped the cyanide episodes were over,” said Gillies, a leading member of Zimbabwe’s wildlife community who is also an official counter of Zimabwe’s elephant population in the west of the country.

Cyanide is widely used in the gold industry in Zimbabwe where miners use cyanide concentrate to catalyze the separation of pure gold from bulk ores during the chemical purification process.

Cyanide kills the body’s cells by starving them of oxygen. In mammals, the poison is most harmful to the heart and brain—organs that depend heavily on oxygen supplies. Elephants appear to die no more then about 100 m from where they drank poisoned water or used salt licks drenched in cyanide.

Elephants, according to wildlife experts die most painful deaths from cyanide. There are tens of thousands of informal gold miners in Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Passenger killed as tourism vehicle hits elephant, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter, The Chronicle

ONE person died and the other was injured when their vehicle hit an elephant in Victoria Falls, police confirmed.

The vehicle hit the jumbo which then fell onto the roof of the vehicle trapping the two.

Officer commanding Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiwona identified the deceased as John Obester Banana (44) who died on his way to Bulawayo on Friday where he had been transferred following the accident that occurred on Thursday night.

Mr Banana and the driver Mr Benard Munapo (48) employed by Pamusha Lodge, were coming from a boat cruise on the Zambezi River when the accident occurred.

It could not be established where Mr Banana hails from as police said investigations were still in progress, although his next of kin had been notified.

“I can confirm that we received a report of two people who were involved in an accident along Park Way near waterworks. Mr Benard Munapo (48) who is employed by Pamusha Lodge was driving a Toyota Regius belonging to the lodge with a passenger John Obester Banana when he hit an elephant,” said Chief Supt Chiwona.

He said Mr Munapo failed to avoid a herd of elephants resulting in the accident.
Some motorists rescued the two and rushed them to Victoria Falls District Hospital where they were admitted.

Mr Banana was transferred to Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo because of his condition but died along the way.

Source: One killed as elephant falls on vehicle (13/06/17)

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Four nabbed for killing impala

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

FOUR people employed at a local lodge in Victoria Falls have been arrested after they allegedly trapped an impala using a wire snare while on duty.

The four; Bongani Mathe, Elias Sibanda, both of Chinotimba as well as Ephraim Marevangepo and Trynose Mpala both of Mkhosana suburb, were arrested on Wednesday afternoon at their workplace.
The four work at Zambezi Wilderness Safaris jetty club which is run by Ilala Lodge on the edge of the Zambezi River. Mathe, Sibanda, Marevangepo and Mpala were charged with trapping an animal using a class one wire snare, which is a violation of a section of the Parks and Wildlife Act.

The four were supposed to appear in court yesterday to answer to the charge but the case was not heard as prosecutors referred the docket back to the police. Prosecutors said they had noted some anomalies in the docket and said further investigations were necessary. The four, who were represented by Mr Givemore Mvhiringi, of Mvhiringi and Partners, will be summoned to court once investigations are complete.

According to state documents, Mathe, Sibanda, Marevangepo and Mpala were on duty when an anti-poaching patrol team arrived at Zambezi Wilderness Safaris jetty club where game meat was found in a disused building. The anti-poaching team was acting on a tip off from an informer who alleged he had spotted a person carrying an impala carcass around the docking area

“When an anti-poaching team arrived at the scene, they found game meat in a box that was in a disused toilet,” read the state outline.

Source: Four nabbed for killing impala (10/06/17)

Vic Falls bridge under threat

SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone

THE Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) has asked Government to consider closing the Victoria Falls bridge to heavy trucks following heavy flow of traffic that has potential to reduce the lifespan of the facility.

And LTA chairman Alexander Munthali expressed concern at the continued congestion caused by heavy trucks at the Victoria Falls border post in Livingstone. Speaking during a media briefing in Livingstone, Mr Munthali said the Victoria Falls border post has been turned into a truck parking yard because the queue of heavy trucks increases daily.

“We need the trucking business but we do not need it in the middle of the city or at our border entry points like Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border as is the case. “A by-pass is required to take truck traffic from the west coming from Kazungula to the north of the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport to intersect the Lusaka road at the weighbridge area,” he said.

He said the by-pass must be a toll road which can collect revenue from trucks for road maintenance.

Mr Munthali said the iconic structure was not built to contain heavy traffic as is the case presently. “The bridge will get damaged and this will be another huge cost for the government. Besides, the recent situation at the border has already instigated different views as circulation on social media is increasing over the issue,” he said.

Source: Vic Falls bridge under threat (10/06/17)


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

AC Milan star at Victoria Falls

ITALIAN and AC Milan midfield star Andrea Poli has become the latest in a long list of world-famous celebrities who have succumbed to the allure of the Victoria Falls.

He reportedly sampled the adrenalin-rush inducing 111-metre bungee jump from the Victoria Falls bridge on Saturday.

Poli (27), who has had stints with other Italian giants Sampdoria and Inter Milan basked in the splendour of one of the Seven Wonders of the World over the weekend.

Although most of his itinerary was kept secret, Poli capped off his stay yesterday with a helicopter ride with Shearwaters Safaris for an aerial view of the awe-inspiring falls.

An official at Shearwater declined to comment on the issue, citing client confidentiality.

However, Poli was pictured disembarking from a Shearwater helicopter yesterday afternoon.

The picture has since gone viral.

He also posed for a picture with former Zifa Southern Region chairperson and football administrator Morgan Gazza Dube.

Sources yesterday said the playmaker - on holiday due to the off season in Italy - was bowled over by the imposing feast for the eyes that is the majestic Victoria Falls.

Dube said the combative midfielder yesterday told him that he was backing Real Madrid against his countrymen Juventus in the Uefa Champions league final on Saturday night.

Spanish champions Real Madrid crushed the Italians from Turin 4-1.

Dube said Poli told him:

"I don't like Juventus. I grew up in Milan and I'm a Milanian through and through. At one time I even turned down an offer from Juventus."

Poli has been likened to the great Daniele De Rosi, the tough as nails AS Roma and Italy national team defensive midfielder.

The player, who says his style of play was influenced by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, was at the prime tourist destination over the weekend.

It could not be established if he sampled one of the biggest thrills for overseas visitors- going close to real wild animals like lions, elephants and other game that roam the nearby Hwange National Park.

He was said to have flown to South Africa yesterday.

The dead-ball-specialist joins a star studded list of renowned celebrities who have ignored fictitious reports about Zimbabwe in Western media to avail themselves to the epoch marking experience of the Victoria Falls.

In March this year, Hollywood A-Lister and successful rapper Will Smith also visited Victoria Falls. The "fresh Prince" also bungeed off the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Professional wrestler, Shawn Michaels, movie star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the late pop icon Michael Jackson, RnB singer Joe Thomas and the legendary R Kelly have visited the Victoria Falls and gone on game drives to see wild animals in their natural habitat.

Many more international celebrities flock incognito to Victoria Falls annually.

Source: AC Milan star at Victoria Falls (05/06/17)

Monday, 5 June 2017

Too many roadblocks not bad for tourism, says Karikoga Kaseke


VISITORS to Zimbabwe must not be afraid of the roadblocks as they are there to “maintain peace” in the country, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke, said.
Kaseke said he was surprised to hear that some tourists were being scared away by the heavy ZRP presence on Zimbabwe’s roads because the police were simply maintaining peace.

The remarks by Kaseke come after the Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi told journalists last week that he was going to take the issue of heavy ZRP presence on the country’s roads to the cabinet.
Mzembi said too many roadblocks were “chasing away” tourists, adding he was also going to call for an indaba on the issue.

But the ZTA boss said ZRP was simply ensuring “safety and security”.
He said the number of tourists coming into the country had actually gone up with about 2 million visiting last year.

“Please visitors do not fear for your safety when you come to Zimbabwe; why are people saying there are too many roadblocks in the country?” Kaseke told NewZimbabwe.com.

“These road blocks, to some extent, are also guaranteeing peace. The ZRP are renowned internationally for maintaining peace when they go on peace missions, our police always come out tops,” he added.

“The Zimbabwe we have is not the Zimbabwe that they (tourists) hear of through the international media. The Zimbabwe that they are hearing about on the international media also shocks us.

“For us we cannot form our own perception for our country, the Zimbabwe that we know is the Zimbabwe that is the most peaceful country. Peace is our selling point.”

Last year, a visitor exit survey (VES) released by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency said harassment by ZRP constituted the highest percentage of reasons why leaving tourists would not return or recommend the country to potential visitors.

Source: Too many roadblocks not bad for tourism, says Karikoga Kaseke (05/06/17)

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Zim seeks lines of credit from Russia

From Pamela Shumba in St Petersburg, Russia

ZIMBABWE is using the 21st St Petersburg International Economic Forum to market investment opportunities in the country and to seek possible lines of credit to lubricate economic growth.
This emerged here on Thursday where three Cabinet ministers on economic portfolios, led by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, are attending the high profile economic forum. The country is also marketing Victoria Falls as a Special Economic Zone and a tourist destination with a target of luring Russians in an effort to boost trade and tourism in the resort town.

Finance and Economic Development Patrick Chinamasa revealed in an interview that discussions were underway to entice Russian investors and seek lines of credit from the giant country’s finance institutions. “We’re having several bilateral meetings with investors who are interested in investing in Zimbabwe. And we’re looking for investments in all sectors of the economy,” said the minister.

“We’ve also been talking to the Russian financial institutions for lines of credit to support our productive sector and infrastructure development. We’re also marketing Victoria Falls as a Special Economic Zone for tourism as well as a financial services sector. There have been airlines now flying into Victoria Falls bringing in tourists. We would also want to see Russian airlines bringing in tourists into the resort town to see one of the great wonders of the world.”

Minister Chinamasa said the country had already cleared the arrears to the International Monetary Fund and work was in progress to clear the arrears to the African Development Bank and the World Bank.

He said the forum was mainly for Russians who are looking for foreign direct investments adding that the country was keen to work with them.

“Our interest is diversified. We’re trying to make contact with Russian investors to lure them to come and invest in Zimbabwe. Our meetings have basically been bilateral and I think we’ve had good meetings.

“We’re also here in order to open up the Russian market to our agricultural products and we’re emphasising the fact that we’re a non-GMO producer and that it will be in our mutual interest to open up the Russian market for our horticultural citrus products. I think as the first step we’re encouraged by the interest that is shown in Zimbabwe,” said Minister Chinamasa.

He added that Zimbabwe was also interested in investments in the mining, manufacturing and the technology sectors. Minister Chinamasa and counterparts, Walter Chidhakwa (Mining) and Dr Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce) were joined by a delegation of business people and technocrats who are also participating in the economic forum, which ends today.

“In the mining sector we’re talking about exploration in our diversified mineral base. We’re happy that the Russians are showing interest,” said Minister Chinamasa.

Source: Zim seeks lines of credit from Russia (03/06/17)

In Troubled Zimbabwe, Vic Falls Airport Shines

The recently commissioned Victoria Falls International Airport, which is capable of handling wide-bodied aircraft, is beginning to hold sway in the resort town, with indications human traffic will exponentially increase as new airlines begin plying the route. There are indications tourism industry operators in neighbouring Zambia, which also commissioned new radar equipment and a new terminal at the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (former Livingstone Airport) on December 23 last year, fear their businesses will suffer as a result.

While the Zambian airport, which claims to be closest to the Victoria Falls, has to capacity to process 700 000 passengers per year, the Victoria Falls airport now has potential to handle 900 000 more at 1,6 million passengers.

The US$150 million facelift of the Victoria Falls airport, funded by China Eximbank, which entailed construction of a new four-kilometre runway, made it possible to land wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A330.

Private sector player African Sun Limited (ASL) gave the clearest indication yet of how the new airport could be a boon for the hospital sector.

ASL chairman Mr Herbert Nkala claimed in the group’s year-end financials to December 31, 2016 weekly airline seat arrivals — measuring the number of passenger carried by airlines — are forecast to rise 40 percent. “We are further encouraged by the optimism of the tourism industry arising from the completion of the Victoria Falls Airport expansion and refurbishment, which will lead to increased foreign arrivals and improve our occupancy at our Victoria Falls properties.

“A number of airlines have expressed interest in the route, and those that have confirmed that they will fly into Victoria Falls will increase the weekly airline seat arrival by 40 percent,” said Mr Nkala in a statement accompanying the results.

Government says RwandAir will be introducing direct flights from Kigali, Rwanda sometime this month. Rwanda is considered one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenyan Airways will be launching direct flights from Nairobi to Victoria Falls beginning May 18. Also SA Airlink, which was the first newly introduced airline to land at the new airport in March, is expected to introduce daily flights from Cape Town to Victoria Falls from July. Ethiopian Airlines made its first direct flight from Addis Ababa to Victoria Falls on Sunday last week.

Overall, there are expectations the new airport will tip the scale in favour of local tourism.

Encouragingly, recent statistics from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) show that passenger arrivals in the resort rose to 20 305 and 17 017 in January and February this year from 17 256 and 16 188 respectively a year earlier. In fact, in January alone, an additional 3 000 passengers have been processed through the airport than in 2016.

A United States luxury and lifestyle travel magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, has since named Zimbabwe the best destination for travellers to Africa in 2017.

The US is one of the country’s biggest traditional source markets.

Bullish

Local hospitality industry players are naturally bullish the new development in the resort will drive margins and profits. Chairperson of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter Mr Christopher Svovah said there is a direct correlation between air connectivity and socio-economic growth.

“It enhances destination accessibility and connectivity and whenever there are airlines, there is socio-economic growth. This growth will not only be in Zimbabwe, but across the region.

“We anticipate that 90 000 new seats are coming into Victoria Falls and this will increase volumes for taxi drivers, food outlets, hotels and all other hospitality institutions,” said Mr Svovah, who is also the Rainbow Hotel (Victoria Falls) general manager. Notwithstanding the positive developments, the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) says the country needs to take ownership of the new product and package it for the international market.

“For the airlines to be coming in, it is a major endorsement for the destination, especially Victoria Falls, which is a seventh wonder of the world. This means we have more capacity, easy access and what is left for us is to aggressively package the destination.

“We don’t want to have a beautiful product and fail to market it. We must take ownership of the packaging and not let our cousins across the Limpopo take all the limelight,” said Dr Taka Munyanyiwa, a consultant with ZCT.

The Victoria Falls is now connected to major regional capitals such as Lusaka, Luanda, Windhoek, Gaborone, Pretoria and Maputo.

Extortionate pricing

But experts say for Zimbabwe to get the maximum possible benefit from arrivals there is need to review the relatively high pricing models for local tourism products.

The use of a strong US dollar as a unit of exchange compared to weaker regional currencies, most particularly the Zambian kwacha, is eating into the country’s competitiveness.

Reports suggest Zambia is presently benefitting the most as it is offering accommodation for visitors who only come to the Zimbabwean side for day visits. HAZ said the challenge was to downwardly review prices.

“The challenge is the cost in Zimbabwe; as tourism players we don’t operate outside the rest of the economy. We need to appreciate that Zimbabwe is 30 percent more expensive than the region.

“The way out is to come up with tourism packages that are way below what is already there. For instance, if we can have a package of R10 000 covering a return ticket, accommodation for three nights and breakfast and one or two activities, it would be better,” said Mr Svovah.

It is believed the recently introduced 15 percent Value Added Tax on amounts spent by foreign tourists is making the situation even worse.

ZCT is presently engaging Government to keep the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority at bay after the latter slapped a US$5,3 million tax bill on two hotels in Victoria Falls last year. The 112-year-old Victoria Falls Hotel, owned by Emerged Railway Properties – a joint venture between the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Zambia Railways – and jointly managed by African Sun and Meikles Africa, owes the bulk of the bill at US$4,1 million.

Victoria Falls Lodge, a privately-owned lodge in Zambezi National Park, is said to owe Zimra US$1,3 million in unpaid taxes.

And ZCT believes it is such costs that should be revised, if not scrapped, to make Zimbabwe the tourist destination of choice.

“We currently have the debate with the Minister (of Finance Patrick Chinamasa) over zero-rating tourism products,” said Dr Munyanyiwa. – State Media

Source: In Troubled Zimbabwe, Vic Falls Airport Shines (02/04/17)

Friday, 2 June 2017

1580 km of Zimbabwe rail now dysfunctional

The National Railways of Zimbabwe has about 3512 out of 75153 wagons in service while the paratstal has 168 fleet of locomotives of which 60 are in service.

The NRZ revealed this in its introduction during the recapitalisation pre-conference meeting.

The parastatal stated that an estimated 10% of its tracks infrastructure is under cautions temporary speed restrictions.

"The automated centralised train control system which covered the network's mainline of about 1580 km is now dysfunctional while the 133km electrified section between Dabuka in Gweru and Msasa in Harare was vandalised resulting in total suspension of electric locomotives," said the NRZ.

The parastatal needs $400 million for the initial recapitalisation out of the $2 billion needed for the overhaul rehabilitation of the institution.

Source: 1580 km of Zimbabwe rail now dysfunctional (01/06/17)

More: Zimbabwe rail network 'a death trap' (27/08/14)


Friday, 26 May 2017

Vic Falls man survives buffalo attack

Leonard Ncube Bulawayo Bureau

A curio vendor in Victoria Falls cheated death after he was attacked by a wounded lone buffalo while relieving himself. Mr Khumbulani Moyo, who sells curios at Sinathankawu Market between the Central Business District and Victoria Falls Border Post, survived by lying flat on the ground, making it difficult for the buffalo to gore him.

The animal reportedly had a piece of wire around its hind leg, a sign that it had escaped from a snare possibly set by poachers.

Mr Moyo had gone to relieve himself behind a shrub near the market on Tuesday afternoon when he almost met his death.

His colleagues rushed him to Victoria Falls District Hospital where he was treated and later discharged.

“I can confirm that a man was attacked by a buffalo and escaped with minor injuries,” said police officer commanding Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiwona.

Zimparks acting spokesperson Mr Simukai Nyasha was yet to get a report on the incident by yesterday.

Mr Moyo said when the buffalo left, he immediately rose and jumped onto a nearby tree, but he had already been injured on the forehead, right side of cheek, mouth, eyes, shoulder and knee.

Last year, a man from Victoria Falls was rushed to hospital with intestines protruding after being attacked by a buffalo near the same area.

Source: Vic Falls man survives buffalo attack (25/5/17)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Zim rangers rescue girl (13) after abduction,

Rangers rescued the girl after they heard her screams while on an anti-poaching patrol in the Victoria Falls.
Conservationists have applauded game rangers in Victoria Falls after they rescued a 13-year old girl who had been abducted and raped.
The rangers were tracking poachers in the area when they were alerted by the girl’s screams.
The Victoria Falls taxi driver was supposed to drive his teenage passenger home from school. Instead, he’s alleged to have driven her to the municipal dump and raped her.
Rangers from the International Anti-poaching Foundation were on an anti-poaching patrol in the area and heard the girl’s screams.
They responded and arrested the driver.
The state-run Chronicle reports that the man has already appeared in court on charges of rape.
On Facebook, conservationists in Victoria Falls and members of the public have applauded the work of the rangers, calling them heroes.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Source of Zambezi River Dries Up

By Paul Shalala in Ikelengi
Originally published: The Zambian Analyst [edited]

It has never happened before, at least in living memory... In fact no one remembers such a thing ever happening. And this has happened at a time when, water levels are supposed to be at their highest on account of the good rains experienced in the past six months...

This blogger travelled over 500 kilometers from his mining town of Kitwe to the border town of Ikelengi in northern Zambia to verify reports that the source of the Zambia river had dried up... Geologists believe that the Zambezi river starts from the Kalene Hills and it flows underground for some kilometers, only to appear in Mukangala area where the official source is.

A dry patch now meets the eye from the spot where the source is, where the Zambezi river used to ooze from. In happier times, that was the first sighting of the river as it creeps from the undergrowth to form a rivulet. And then it disappears and creeps back in visible patches here and there.

It is also the reason why beautiful walk-ways were made for people to easily walk around and see the phenomenal spot.: the source of the Zambezi river This same spot is also the reason why a nice visitor center was constructed by the Zambia government to provide information for tourists.

Even Willy Chiwaya. the conservation assistant who has been taking care of the Zambezi source for the past 10 years has never seen anything like this before. "I have been working here for 10 years and this is the first time ever seeing the source drying. We did not just have enough rains this year that is why it is dry," said Mr. Chiwaya.

And the traditionalists also have an explanation. "The forefathers are annoyed that is why the source is dry. They are annoyed with the white people who have encroached into our land and chased us from the source. We are asking the government to allow us resume the musolu ceremony," said

Senior Headman Mukangala, a local Lunda leader who lives less than two kilometers from the source of the Zambezi river. The source of the Zambezi river is protected by the National Heritage and Conservation Commission. The Visitor Information Center at the source of the Zambezi

The area, which is 36 hectares, has been declared a national forest in order to preserve the source. However, this year has been full of surprises. "The water table has really gone down. We have not had enough rains this year like we have had in the past. But there is still water here, though its 300 meters away from the actual source were we are standing," said Mr Chiwaya.

The Lunda speaking people are the owners of this land - the source of the Zambezi river. The Lundas called the river Yambezhi but the white man opted to call it Zambezi. Actually, the Republic of Zambia derives its name from the Zambezi river.

In the years before the source of the river became a national heritage site, the Lundas considered the area as a shrine. They used to come to this area to perform rituals. And then came the white man. "Where there is a monument, that was some kind of a hospital were the sick were brought for healing. What used to happen is that the ancestors would come here, get few leaves and trees to mix together and give the herbs to the people who were at the camp and they would get healed," revealed Mr Chiwaya.

He further explained about the restrictions which were followed religiously at the shrine. "There are some restrictions which are currently not being followed thats why this place is no longer a shrine. Only circumcised men where allowed here and women who did not have sex during the day time were also allowed to come."

Senior Headman Mukangala lives a few kilometers away from the source of the Zambezi. During the colonial error, he used to be Chief Kabanda but in 1947, he was de-gazette on account of not having enough people in his chiefdom. The British colonial government claimed his villages were scattered and he would not manage to hold his chiefdom together.

Today Senior Headman Mukangala feels the drying up of the source of the Zambezi river is a curse. "The decision to stop us from celebrating the Musolu traditional ceremony at the source of the Zambezi is what is causing problems and the drying up of the source. The spirits are annoyed," said the traditional leader in an interview.

Before the whites started visiting this area in the 1920s, the villagers used to perform a ceremony called Musolu. In this ritual, they prayed asking the gods for good rains. But now they no longer perform it.

"During the ceremony, we used to start by praying to God for good rains. All Headmen under my leadership would gather at the source of the Zambezi. All people would be happy because they would be talking to God directly," he said. The Musolu ceremony, like many other cultural activities of this nature, is performed once a year.

Senior Headman Mukangala now recalls how it was done. Throwing some seeds on the ground, Senior Headman says: "Once we paint our faces with white powder, we would then ask God that whatever we have planted, let it germinate so that next year we can have enough food for your people." But all is not so dry at the source of the Zambezi.

Three hundred meters away from the actual source, there is some activity. A small brook of water coming from an underground fountain, is the first sign that the Zambezi river still runs here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally aired on TV1's Newsline program on 19 May 2017 and the video can be watched here.

Source: Source of Zambezi River Dries Up Due To Climate Change (21/5/17)


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Zim Parks Officials Accused Of Stealing Rhino Horns Granted Bail

Four parks officials in Zimbabwe have appeared in court over the theft of 56 rhino horns reported to be worth up to $3 million.


Four parks officials in Zimbabwe have appeared in court over the theft of 56 rhino horns reported to be worth up to $3 million.
The horns were among thousands kept under tight security at Zimbabwe’s national parks headquarters in Harare.
The state-run Herald is reporting that former parks director-general Edson Chidziya is being charged with criminal abuse of office.
Three other parks officials, including an audit manager, have been arrested.
They appeared in court on Tuesday and are all out on bail of $200.
State prosecutors allege that sometime between 2012 and 2015 Chidziya allowed a breach of security at the strong-room where thousands of rhino horns were kept.
Chidziya was boss of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority when Cecil the Lion story broke in 2015 and he’s the official who imposed a temporary ban on trophy hunting around Hwange National Park in the wake of that killing.

Monday, 15 May 2017

$3 million rhino horns missing at ZimParks

Fifty-six rhino horns worth US$3 million vanished from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority stores in Harare, a board of inquiry has found.

The board of inquiry wants former ZimParks Director-General Mr Edson Chidziya to account for the loss, and also be investigated by the police for allegedly violating tender regulations. Mr Chidziya was fired for maladministration and abuse of office. The rhino horn trade is prohibited under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, but black markets - especially in Asia - offer lucrative returns.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri confirmed receiving the board's report.

ZimParks board chair Mr Tichafa Mundangepfupfu told The Sunday Mail: "The issue of missing rhino horns is before the ZRP's department of Economic Crimes unit and we are expecting to go to court soon. "On the issue of maladministration, we brought (Mr Chidziya) before a disciplinary hearing and he was found guilty; that's why he was dismissed. In fact, we are in the process of hunting for a new director-general."

However, when asked to comment on the stage of investigations, Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said, "I don't know what you are talking about."

The board's report reads, "At criminal level, the director-general should be charged with C/S 184 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) 'Criminal abuse of duty as public officer'. (He) exhibited a high level of negligence in the execution of his duties relevant to the matter at hand in that . . .he failed to put in place security and control measures to prevent pilferage of rhino horns."

According to the report, ZimParks had 4 303 rhino horns at its headquarters in 2011, some of which were deposited around 1989. The report says an internal audit in 2014 showed that one rhino horn was missing and the matter was reported to police on Mr Chidziya's instruction. But another audit in 2015 established that 56 rhino horns were missing, and the board queried how the first audit had failed to detect the loss of the other 55 horns and why Mr Chidziya did not report the matter to police.

"When the initial one rhino horn was discovered to be missing, a prompt report was made to the police at the behest of the director-general. However, when a similar and more serious case of the 56 missing rhino horns was brought to his attention, he did not report it to police since July 2015 to date. On being questioned by the board of inquiry, the director-general said that he wanted to get a second opinion to authenticate the quantities before making a report. It was the responsibility of Edson Chidziya to ensure that the matter was reported to the police.

"The authority did not make an internal investigation in this matter with a view of establishing the perpetrator and or circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the horns."

The board says Mr Chidziya did not institute sound inventory and security measures in keeping with standard procedures.

Earlier in 2012, senior parks officer Padgewell Mazoyo - who was in charge of the stores - fell ill and was temporarily replaced by Mr Munyaradzi Nhira. "In the intervening period and contrary to the standing operating procedures, Munyaradzi Nhira did not invite security personnel to witness his entrance into and exit from the ivory and rhino horn stores," reads the report.

". . .That Munyaradzi Nhira had unlimited and unprocedural access into the ivory and rhino horn stores until April 2014 was discovered upon the return of Padgewell Mazoyo who had been on sick leave from December 2012, indicates a serious gap in monitoring and control systems. Upon assumption of office in the capacity of acting director-general on 1 September 2012 before he was appointed on a substantive basis on 1 May 2013, Edson Chidziya did not draw or cause to be drawn an inventory of rhino horn stocks and neither did he cause routine audits to be done."

The board also established that in 2015, Mr Chidziya - outside of tender procedures - authorised purchase of ZimParks uniforms worth US$365 185 and also got a US$127 398 vehicle for himself.

Source: $3 million rhino horns missing at ZimParks (14/5/17)

More: 
Massive corruption unearthed at National Parks (2/4/17)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Tourism sector records increase in occupancy

Walter Muchinguri and Kudakwashe Mhundwa —

The tourism sector recorded a 6 percent jump in occupancy in the first quarter of the year partly due to a boost in arrivals into the resort town Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said occupancy levels rose to 58 percent in the first quarter from 48 percent to the close of last year.

“Last year our occupancy levels were at 48 percent which means that we lost 52 percent but I am happy to say that the ratios have increased partly due to the arrival of new airlines in Victoria Falls,” he said.

Victoria Falls has witnessed increased arrivals since January as some airlines have established direct routes into Victoria Falls, attracted by the $150 million upgrade of the Victoria Falls airport, which has been nicknamed the game changer.

South African Airways was the first to break the ice when it introduced its new Airbus A330-200 aircraft with a capacity of 222 passengers, 36 business class and 186 economy class on the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route on March 1.

This was followed by Ethiopian Airlines’ launch of its inaugural direct flight into the resort town of Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 26. The airline is using a Boeing 737-800 with 16 seats in business class and 119 in economy class. Kenya Airways also launched a direct flight between Nairobi and Victoria Falls via Cape Town using an Embraer E190, with a configuration of 12 business class seats and 84 economy class seats, at the beginning of this month while Airlink will launch flights between Cape Town and Victoria Falls on July 2.

Dr Kaseke said the arrival of the new airlines should ignite interest in other airlines to introduce flights into the resort town, while predicting that the new airlines which are currently doing a limited number of flights per week will be flying daily into the Victoria Falls come year-end. He added that it was now up to the tourism sector to ensure that they are geared for the increase in arrivals.

“The arrival of these airlines increases seat capacity on this route and this will result in increased demand for rooms.

“As an industry the ball is firmly in our court we need to implement robust strategies to ensure that our visitors are well catered for,” he said.

He commended the Department of Immigration for downgrading 50 countries from category C to category B allowing nationals from those countries to apply for visas at the point of entry.

Tour operators in the resort town are already gearing up for increased numbers by increasing the number of vehicles now stationed within the airport’s parking lot.

“We have had to scale-up operations as you can see there are considerably more vehicles here than before, business has picked up.

“As we speak tour operators are putting in orders for new vehicles in order to ensure customer satisfaction,” said one operator who declined to be named.

Rainbow Tourism Group chief executive Mr Tendai Madziwanyika last week indicated that as a group they were already gearing for growth in Victoria Falls, which would be implemented under various strategies that they were looking at.

“The first is that we want to organically grow the business. We do not need to look outward but inward for growth because for instance right now A’Zambezi is full. A’Zambezi has 87 rooms, we can increase that with the space we have. Victoria Falls Rainbow has 88 rooms we can double the rooms. We are seeing a natural expansion, natural growth model.

“The business is functioning and we are failing to accommodate everyone so there is a natural case for expansion,” he said.

The tourism sector is one of the quick wins in terms of economic turnaround. In the last 24 months the ZTA has registered 28 new restaurants, 17 new guesthouses and 28 incentive travel organisers.

Last year it generated $819 million in revenue as tourist arrivals rose 5 percent to 2 167 686 from 2 056 588 in the prior year. The sector contributes 10,9 percent contribution to the country`s GDP.

Source: Tourism sector records increase in occupancy (12/05/17)

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

RTG invests $1m in hotels upgrade

Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter

RAINBOW Tourism Group (RTG) has spent $1 million in upgrading its hotels despite 11 percent drop in revenue in 2016.

In a statement accompanying the group’s financial results from the year ended December 31, 2016, RTG chairman Mr John Chikura said the capital expenditure for the refurbishment exercise was secured from internally generated cash flows.

“The company spent $1 million in upgrading its hotels. The capital expenditure was funded from internally generated cash flows. The focus hotels were Kadoma Hotel and Conference Centre (KHCC), New Ambassador Hotel and Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel.

“The refurbishment works at KHCC commenced during the last quarter of 2015,” he said adding that as at December 31, 2016 about 40 percent of the rooms had been refurbished with external painting of the hotel completed.

New Ambassador Hotel has refurbished 50 percent of its 72 rooms with a focus on the in-room furniture, floors and bathrooms.

“The refurbishment at Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel commenced in November 2016. A complete facelift of the rooms, which includes replacing furniture, fittings and soft furnishings as well as air conditioning equipment is being undertaken. Half of the rooms have now been completely refurbished,” said Mr Chikura.

During the period under review, RTG recorded a 11 percent drop in revenue from $26,9 million in 2015 to $24,1 million last year.

In the first four months of 2016, RTG experienced steady revenue growth, which decelerated during the second into the third quarter of the year due to exogenous factors in the country.
Mr Chikura said during the period his organisation lost $800 000 in revenue due to direct cancellation of confirmed bookings.

“The net effect of these disturbances resulted in Rainbow Towers Hotel recording a revenue decline of $3.2 million compared to its 2015 performance. This had a negative impact on the company’s overall performance as the hotel contributes over 40 percent to the company total revenues. In contrast, the company’s other hotels recorded one percent revenue growth compared to 2015,” he said.

RTG’s total loss for the year including discontinued operations closed at $4.7 million compared to a loss of $29 000 recorded in the previous year.
Discontinued operations alone posted a loss of $1,6 million, which translates to 34 percent of the total loss for the year.

“Notwithstanding depressed cash flows, the company made significant progress on debt reduction. During the year, the debt was reduced by $2 million (11 percent) from 2015 position of $19 million to $17 million as at December 31, 2016,” said Mr Chikura.

The firm’s negative working capital as at December 31, 2016 was $25.6 million and the amount includes the $13,6 million loan from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) and its accrued interest arrears all contributing 60 percent of the negative working capital.

RTG board chairman said during the course of last year, NSSA tabled a term sheet to restructure the $13.6 million loan facility by further seven years at a reduced interest rate of six percent.
The board approved the term sheet in March last year.

“However, the restructuring proposal was not presented before shareholders as it later became apparent to the board during the year that a resolution would not obtain requisite approval at an extraordinary general meeting.

“Subsequent to this, NSSA instituted legal proceedings against RTG in order to recover the initial loan of $10 million plus interest. In December, 2016, the High Court issued a judgment in favour of NSSA for the $10 million facility.

“NSSA is yet to execute its judgment and has allowed the company to focus on alternative ways of restructuring the balance sheet, including the NSSA debt,” said Mr Chikura.

Source: RTG invests $1m in hotels upgrade (8/5/17)

Monday, 8 May 2017

Livingstone Online Builds Partnership with the Livingstone Museum

by Jared McDonald, University of the Free State, South Africa
Livingstone Online has been building a partnership with the Livingstone Museum in Zambia since early 2016. This partnership was strengthened recently when I undertook a week-long visit to the Museum.
The Livingstone Museum is the oldest museum in Zambia, having opened in 1934. Situated in the town of Livingstone, near Victoria Falls, the Museum has important archaeological, ethnological, and cultural artefacts in its holdings. The Museum also hosts a permanent exhibit on David Livingstone. The many items on display include Livingstone’s notebooks, a signed copy of Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, and other personal possessions, such as Livingstone’s raincoat, cutlery, and medicine chest.
The Livingstone Museum is also home to a sizeable collection of David Livingstone’s original letters. Over the last year, Livingstone Online, in collaboration with the Jafuta Foundation, has begun partnering with the Livingstone Museum with a view to digitizing the Museum’s Livingstone manuscripts and other historical artefacts. My visit was facilitated by Jafuta Foundation trustee, Gail van Jaarsveldt, who has been instrumental in forging the ties between the Livingstone Museum and Livingstone Online.
The visit afforded me the opportunity to build relationships with the Livingstone Museum’s dedicated staff and to update the Livingstone Online Digital Catalogue by consulting the Museum’s collection of Livingstone manuscripts. In an exciting development, I identified over 20 previously uncatalogued letters, along with five hand-drawn maps and gathered the information needed to add them to the Livingstone Online Digital Catalogue.
I was also able to discuss the Museum’s needs in terms of the long-term preservation of Livingstone manuscripts with Museum Director, George Mudenda, and other Museum staff, all of whom are committed to the important role the Museum plays in preserving the history and heritage of Zambia and the Victoria Falls region.
Livingstone Online is very pleased to partner with the Livingstone Museum, which is recognized as one of the most important repositories of David Livingstone manuscripts in Southern Africa. In addition to digitizing the Museum’s Livingstone manuscripts, Livingstone Online and the Jafuta Foundation are also planning to assist the Museum with the conservation of the physical letters. Furthermore, the Livingstone Museum will be able to draw upon this partnership to better preserve other collections in its manuscript and artifact holdings.
Along with Gail van Jaarsveldt and the Jafuta Foundation, the Livingstone Online team looks forward to future collaboration with the Livingstone Museum and to continuing to build our developing partnership.