The flow at the Africa’s biggest waterfall is at its lowest since 1995, highlighting the threat posed by a drought to tourism and electricity generation in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Flow has slumped to 109 cubic meters-per-second (3,850 cubic feet) at Victoria Falls, a 1.7-kilometer (1.1 mile) curtain of falling water at the peak of a normal wet season, according to the Zambezi River Authority. The falls on the Zambezi river straddle the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia and the flow of the watercourse fills the Kariba Dam, the site of the two countries’ largest power plants.
The drought threatens to deter tourists from visiting the site, could curtail a lucrative white-water rafting industry in the gorge below the cataract and may see the power plants at Kariba shut down, worsening power cuts in both countries. Elephants at nearby game parks are dying of hunger, further damaging the tourism industry.
“Some of the tourism products that we boast of can be a thing of the past if climate change and global warming are not quickly addressed,” said Godfrey Koti, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
Key among Victoria Falls’ attractions is a rain-forest fed by the spray of the thundering waters. That spray gives Victoria Falls’ its local name - Mosi Oa Tunya - The Smoke That Thunders.
“Rafting activities and visits to the rain-forest have declined,” said Clement Mukwasi, president of the Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators. “There isn’t much that we can do except for us as an industry to promote awareness of climate change.”
The flow at the falls is volatile. The lowest on record is 99 cubic meters-per-second in October 1996 while the record is 6,172 cubic meters-per-second in April 1977, according to the authority.
This year’s paucity, which has left Kariba 15% full, has already cut power generation at the Zimbabwean plant to just over a 10th of its usual output.
”We are dangerously close to a level where we have to cut off power generation, “ Mthuli Ncube, Zimbabwe’s finance minister, told lawmakers in Victoria Falls town on Thursday.
Rains in Zimbabwe normally begin in November and end around April.
POLICE in Victoria Falls are investigating a case where wildlife rangers found two metal boxes 0f ammunition with 1 500 rounds in the Zambezi National Park.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident and said investigations have been launched to establish the source of the arms cache.
“I can confirm that we received a report about such an incident and police are currently conducting investigations into the source of the ammunition,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He appealed to members of the public to come forward with information or to report to the police if they come across any suspicious objects anywhere.
Mr Posent Mudenda, a Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority ranger stumbled on the arms in Kalisosa area in Zambezi National Park while leading a team of five wildlife researchers from Lion Encounter last Friday.
They found two metal boxes of 7.62mm ammunition with about 1 500 rounds inside.
They reported the matter to the police and handed over the ammunition.
A specialist team from the police and Zimbabwe National Army attended the scene.
Nearly US$18,000 has been raised to combat poaching in Zimbabwe's top tourist destination of Victoria Falls by an annual fundraising golf tournament, coordinated, hosted and sponsored by hospitality group Africa Albida Tourism.
A total of US$17, 852 was raised at the 19th annual Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU) Golf Day at Borrowdale Brooke Golf Club on September 20, where 136 players, making up 34 teams, teed off for the charitable cause playing a 4 Ball Alliance format.
The tournament was won by the Toyota 2 team, made up of Yeukai Gatsi, Felix Sachiti, Fanuel Moffat and Irimayi Madyambudzi, who finished on 99 points, while Curverid Tobacco's Natural Disaster and Paperhole Investments took second and third places respectively.
The lucky winners each took home an accommodation voucher for two nights for two people at the premium Victoria Falls Safari Club, with breakfast included, and one dinner at The Club restaurant.
Dendairy won the Best Dressed Ladies' Team, while Trentyre was named the Best Dressed Men's Team, and the Zimbabwe Special Olympics Team, sponsored by The Bronte Hotel, participated in the event for the sixth year.
The lucky raffle winners went home with a four-night fully inclusive safari package for two, staying at Matetsi Private Game Reserve and Camp Hwange; two return regional air tickets on BA Comair; and three nights for two at Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools.
Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive Ross Kennedy said the success of the VFAPU Golf Day was yet another example of the incredible strength and character of our community in the midst of a very tough economy.
"Many regular supporters stated it was the best VFAPU Golf Day ever, and we thank every single person involved for making it happen ... our AAT team, Borrowdale Brooke Golf Club and all players, sponsors and donors," Kennedy said.
The golf day is just one element of our continued fundraising efforts and so we urge those who can still assist in cash or resources to please consider supporting VFAPU," he said.
VFAPU head of operations Charles Brightman thanked everyone involved, saying the funds raised annually at this tournament were vital to VFAPU's survival and this would go a long way towards covering the unit's operational costs.
VFAPU's 17 scouts, who tackle all forms of poaching in the Victoria Falls region, have arrested 792 serious poachers since the unit was established in 1999 by Brightman, a professional guide and conservationist, and Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, AAT's flagship property.
The unit, which works closely with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, has also removed nearly 22 500 wire snares from its operational area, and rescued 243 mammals injured by snares.
Property firm, Zimre Property Investments Limited (ZPI) will add another upmarket hotel facility in the resort town of Victoria Falls as the angle for the anticipated influx of tourist arrivals as well as narrow the deficit in bed capacity.
ZPI managing director Edson Muvingi said the development of the hotel facility – Lizard Lodge will commence as soon as they finalise all regulatory requirements with the local authorities in that town.
“We have land in Victoria Falls and we will put a 40-bed facility. We have already secured an operator and signed an agreement,” said Muvingi at a media engagement recently in the capital.
“As soon as we are done with local authority regulations, we should start construction,” he said.
The country has a shortage in tourism infrastructure like hotel rooms and conference centres with capacity to hold huge numbers in line with international standards.
This presents an opportunity for property developers to tap into the tourism industry through construction of infrastructure that supports the tourism industry. Experts say that while the country is endowed with vast natural resources, such as the Big Five and home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, lack of adequate facilities that support tourism activities across value chains may limit the country from realizing its full potential.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says Zimbabwe as a whole has a shortage of hotels and rooms, and has less room capacity than a portion of Johannesburg — Sandton precisely. Victoria Falls’ hotel room capacity stands at 1 128 rooms while major centres like Harare and Bulawayo have 1 628 and 370 respectively.
ZPI, joins other firms in enhancing bed capacity in the resort town, which is the country’s premier tourist destination and a declared special economic zone.
Recently, the country’s largest financial services provider Old Mutual also indicated plans to develop an upmarket hotel and conference centre in the resort town.
The property sector, especially central business district (CBD) office space has been depressed lately due to voids as tenants downsize operations or close shop. Others have migrated to office parks and suburban offices as well as negotiating for downward rental reviews weighing down on the rental income.
Vast opportunities have however, been identified in office parks, tourism and hospitality infrastructure, shopping malls and student accommodation given the ballooning student population at the country’s universities and other tertiary institutions.
ZPI recently opened doors at its Sawanga Shopping Mall in Victoria Falls as well as student accommodation facility in Bulawayo. Among other projects in the pipeline are the Selbourne Park development and the Addlyin town houses in Harare.
TOURIST arrivals at Zimbabwe’s prime resort, Victoria Falls are expected to increase by 20% this year largely driven by international source markets, an official has said.
Zimbabwe’s source markets include the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, Germany, and South Africa, among others.
Employers Association of Tourism Operators president Clement Mkwasi told NewsDay that the number of visitors to Victoria Falls, the southern African country’s flagship destination, is expected to grow by 20% over 2018 figures.
“We seem to be okay and our peak season has started. We are targeting a 20% growth this year. So far we are on course,” Mukwasi, who is an executive of the Shearwater Adventures Group, said.
Mkwasi said the tourism industry in Victoria Falls was booming, with most hotels almost fully booked. He encouraged people to make their bookings early lest they fail to secure accommodation for the festive season.
Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is estimated to have generated US$1,050 billion in receipts from international tourists last year, marking a 7% growth from US$917 million in 2017.
The country recorded 2,6 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, a 6% jump from the 2,4 million received in 2017. The growth in arrivals was driven by the notable growth in arrivals from all source regions and most major markets with the exception of the Americas.
Since 2017 tourist arrivals from overseas markets have galloped by 49% from 318 751 in 2016 to 515 440 in 2018.
However, Mukwasi raised concern over price distortions currently obtaining in the economy. “The only problem that we are facing as an industry is price distortions. Otherwise everything is okay,” he said.
The sector is currently in a catch-22 situation, with players now failing to even budget on a monthly basis due to price instability.
The southern African nation is reeling under an economic meltdown, with inflation reaching alarming levels due to the continued devaluation of the local currency after the central bank recently removed exchange rate controls on the bond note.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe chief executive officer Paul Matamisa recently told this publication that price instability was making the tourism industry uncompetitive and continues to threaten viability and growth of the sector. Mukwasi said fuel supplies have improved in the resort town. Tourism is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, having raked in about US$335 million in visitor exports in 2018.
AN UNIDENTIFIED man has been killed by an elephant in Livingstone.
According to Zambia Police public relations officer Esther Mwaata Katongo, the victim met his fate between a place known as Dry Manzi and Mukuni village turn-off.
“Police in Livingstone received a report of an elephant attack suspected to have occurred in the early hours of today, 30th September 2019 at unknown time in which an unidentified male victim believed to have been carrying a bag of cabbages was killed by an elephant which is believed to have gone away with the bag of cabbage while other cabbages dropped,” Katongo said.
She said the man’s mutilated body was discovered by members of the public.
Katongo said the body was in Batoka Hospital mortuary.
This is the second death by an elephant this month after a tour guide Chiingi Siavwapa was killed by an elephant as he accompanied a tourist on a bird watching walk.