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Friday 18 July 2014

Victoria Falls tourist tram service suspended

A LOCAL company which runs a tram service in the tourist resort of Victoria Falls has suspended services following the recent crash that left one tourist dead and 20 others injured.

The general manager for Victoria Falls Steam Train Company, Edmore Kasira, said they had suspended operations to establish the cause of the accident.

“We’re working hard to have the product which had been popular with tourists back on the rails. It will go on as soon as possible but for now it is suspended to allow investigations into the cause of the accident,” he said.

The tram was carrying 32 tourists and five crew members when a National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) goods train ploughed it at the Victoria Falls main station.

Of the 20 who were injured, 18 were treated at the local hospital while two others were flown to a hospital in Johannesburg where one of them died of his wounds.

NRZ spokesperson, Fanuel Masikati, said a team of experts was still on the ground investigating the cause of the accident. It is suspected that a signal error could be the most likely explanation for the accident.

The open-sided tram was used to transport tourists to the town’s star attractions such as the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Rainforest.

Source: Victoria Falls tourist tram service suspended - (16/7/14)
Big blow for tourism - NewsDay (11/07/14)

Thursday 17 July 2014

Single Visa System Gets Major Boost

The World Bank has availed US$700 000 towards the creation of a single visa system among Sadc member states, with Zimbabwe and Zambia set to host the pilot project.

Sadc wants to implement a single visa system (univisa) to allow easy movement of tourists and business persons as a way to promote intra-regional trade.

The World Bank project focuses on the harmonisation of visa requirements for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza) countries, high-level consultation events, modernisation and advocacy events for visa facilitation.

Kaza has five countries -- Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.

The bank is providing support for the progressive implementation of visa facilitation activities for the TFCA and Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (Retosa) leading to the ultimate goal of implementing a Sadc univisa initiative.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi said the upcoming Sadc summit to be hosted in Zimbabwe in August would deliberate on the modalities of setting up a functional univisa regime.

"It will be a topical issue at the Sadc summit next month -- in fact, one of the regional integration showcases for the conference. We are on course [with implementing the project] and have been bailed out by the World Bank at the initial stages," said Mzembi.

The funding will also facilitate high-level consultation between partner countries including representation at the highest level from designing the protocol and legislative amendments that will facilitate the implementation of the univisa.

The approach towards removing barriers for visa simplification and streamlining of immigration processes included interventions in harmonisation of visa requirements for Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Angola.

The project also entails reviewing the existing visa situation among the partner countries, identifying immigration and customs regulations of the countries that would require harmonisation in order to facilitate implementation of the Kaza univisa.

Information availed by the bank shows that there are basically four stages involved in the implementation of the project, with the first stage involving Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The second stage incorporates all five Kaza countries to include Angola, Botswana and Namibia.

The third stage will involve setting up a pilot project that covers Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland as pilot Sadc countries before the final stage that will implement a univisa for all Sadc member states.

The bank notes that although most Sadc member states have liberalised some aspects of tourism services already under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services, such as hotel services, there are other aspects that have not been liberalised.

For example, the industry relies upon various transport services to deliver clients while immigration and entry/exit control regulations have a direct influence on the supply of international tourism services.<

Tourism competitiveness in the region cannot be realised without ease of cross border access, the bank notes.

The envisaged benefits of a univisa, modelled more or less along the lines of Europe's Schengen visa system, include increased competitiveness of the Sadc region and an increase in the efficiency and transparency of immigration procedures for tourism.

The univisa regime will also lead to the elimination of administrative impediments such as time delays and improved ease for the issuing of visas and distribution of visa revenues to the pilot countries.

Cross border travel will become easier, less time consuming and bureaucratic while encouraged multi-country visits and longer stays will lead to increased economic performance of the tourism sector resulting in increased welfare and increased employment.

Source: Single Visa System Gets Major Boost - (13/07/14)

Sunday 13 July 2014

Four elephants found dead from suspected cyanide poisoning - Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has called for stiffer penalties on all cases involving wildlife crime following the fresh killing of four elephants in Zambezi National Parks, just outside Victoria Falls, through cyanide poisoning.

Kasukuwere, in a statement, condemned the killing of the elephants and ordered the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to work tirelessly in ensuring that the perpetrators were brought to book and to reinforce manpower in the affected area.

The elephants were discovered with their tusks still intact on July 6 and preliminary findings indicate that a natural salt-lick in the park was laced with cyanide.

Comprehensive results were still to be obtained as samples collected have been sent to Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Harare for further investigation.

Kasukuwere stressed that the government would not tolerate the continued decimation of the country’s wildlife by poachers using chemicals, adding that efforts would be directed at ensuring that the culprits were apprehended.

ZimParks spokesperson Caroline Washaya-Moyo told NewsDay yesterday that Kasukuwere called for the deployment of more manpower in the affected area and to collaborate with other Agencies such as EMA, the veterinary department, the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

“The poachers poisoned natural salt licks in the Zambezi National Park and this resulted in the deaths of other species such as one cape turtle dove, one sand grouse and a vulture,” Washaya-Moyo said.

She, however, said no arrests had been made and reports that fingered some Zambian poachers were mere allegations.

“We are still carrying out investigations and culprits will soon be brought to book,” Washaya-Moyo said.

ZimParks has already instituted intensified ground and air patrols around the area and arrests are expected soon.

Meanwhile, Kasukuwere has appealed to communities that reside adjacent to wildlife to value the country’s wildlife heritage.

He said the communities should not habour poachers and desist from keeping illegal and hazardous substances without authority as these were not only dangerous to animals, but also to human beings.

Kasukuwere instructed EMA and other relevant authorities to quickly rehabilitate the poisoned sites.

Last year, there was an outcry after more than 100 jumbos were killed from a poisoned waterhole in Hwange National Park in September.

Following investigations and a thorough search of the nearby villages, 240 kg of cyanide was found in their houses.

A ministerial taskforce team comprising Kasukuwere, Tourism and Hospitality’s Walter Mzembi and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services’ Jonathan Moyo visited the park to investigate rampant poaching of elephants.

Three out of the eight poachers arrested for killing elephants by cyanide poisoning in Hwange National Park have since been sentenced to 16 years in prison each.

Source: Kasukuwere fumes after new cyanide poisoning (12/07/14)
Four more elephants die of cyanide poisoning (13/07/14)

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Vic Falls town council to borrow over $14m

THE Victoria Falls Town Council has made an application to borrow over $14 million from financial institutions to finance water, sewer and road works around the resort town.
In a notice to the public, the local authority said in accordance with Section 290 of the Urban Councils Act Chapter 29:15, it would borrow $14 776 849 to fund projects. According to the Urban Councils Act, if local authorities wish to borrow sizable loans from financial institutions, they have to seek government approval or a guarantee.
The idea of seeking borrowing powers is that if councils borrow money from financial institutions and fail to service the loan, the government could assist in the repayment.
The Victoria Falls municipality is seeking $1,1 million for installation of water reticulation services in new areas and $1,5 million for sewer reticulation. The bulk of the money — $12,1 million — would be used for the upgrading and construction of roads and storm water drains.
In June, the government made available 274 hectares of land near the Victoria Falls International Airport for the expansion of the resort town as it intensifies efforts to mordenise the country’s tourism hub into a global destination of choice.
The financially embattled local authority scrapped $3,6 million owed by residents in September 2013 in accordance with a ministerial directive to wipe off all municipal utility debts owed by residential customers accrued between February 2009 and June 2013.
The resort town’s municipality said the move seriously backfired as it was now struggling to meet its obligations. Recently, several local authorities, notably the Bulawayo City Council, have been seeking borrowing powers to finance capital projects.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Tram Accident Update: Tourist dies from injuries

Media sources are now reporting that one of the twelve tourists injured on Tuesday after the tourist tram they were travelling in has hit by a goods train in Victoria Falls has sadly died.

The ZBC reported that two of the injured passengers who sustained head injuries were flown to South Africa for expert treatment. Reports from South Africa indicate that one of the injured has since died.

The collision occurred near the Victoria Falls Hotel around 5pm when the goods train, which was coming from Hwange, rammed into the tram.

ZRP national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the injured tourists were from USA, Australia and Netherlands. "As the Zimbabwe Republic Police we are confirming the accident. However our men are on the ground to try and find out what could have possibly happened. The injured are [all] foreign tourists," she said.

The tram was hit just after pulling off towards Jafuta Lodge, where the tourists intended to have their supper. Residents who spoke to SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said the goods train changed lanes, onto the path of the tram, leading to the collision.

Saungweme said a signal error was the most likely explanation for the accident, reportedly theorising it could be linked to theft of copper used in the signal system.

In an media statement published on, it has been clarified that the tram was carrying a party of 32 tourists, including 4 children, at the time of the accident, of which 20 were treated for injuries. The injured nationals are reported as being from the United States of America, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia and were treated at the Chinotimba Medical Centre and The Victoria Falls Hospital, both in Victoria Falls. Two of the critically injured passengers were evacuated to medical facilities in Johannesburg, South Africa and unfortunately confirming one of the injured persons died as a result of injuries sustained. None of the reports so far clarfiy the nationality of the deceased tourist.

Furrther details of the incident have emerged, with SouthernEye reporting that a severely injured elderly man was stretchered into a dark Victoria Falls Hospital as the institution was in the middle of a [power] blackout at the time the injured tourists were brought by ambulances. The man... could not be immediately attended to as there was no doctor on duty at the time.

The accident comes after railway passengers were injured recently when two trains derailed on the Victoria Falls route between Friday and Sunday.

Source: Vic Falls tram accident tourist dies - Bulawayo24 (02/07/14)
Tram Accident Press Release : Victoria Falls - VicFalls24 - 02/07/14
27 tourists injured in train smash - SouthernEye -)2/07/14

Tourism Tram Rammed by Train, at least 12 injured

At least 12 tourists escaped with minor injuries in Victoria Falls yesterday after a National Railways of Zimbabwe goods train rammed a tram late in the afternoon.

Image source: The Chronicle

NRZ public relations manager Fanuel Masikati confirmed the accident, but said details were still sketchy. "Yes, there was a train accident in Victoria Falls," he said. "We are still to get more details from our man on the ground. As it stands we are yet to know where the goods train was coming from or if it is ours or not."

Victoria Falls mayor Mr Sifiso Mpofu said he arrived at the scene when the victims had been taken to a hospital in the resort town. "Twelve foreign tourists have escaped... with bruises," he said. "Their condition is stable."

Police in Victoria Falls confirmed the accident, but could not give more details.

Witnesses said the tram was hit by the goods train just as it was about to take off after picking up tourists for a tour. "It was around 5pm when the tram was hit by a goods train," said a witness who requested anonymity. "The guide who works for Victoria Falls Steam Train Company -- the company that runs the tram - jumped off when the accident looked imminent and escaped unhurt." The source said the injured were rushed to different health institutions in the resort town.

The open-sided tram is a modern built replica of a classic 1890s model and accommodates about 30 passengers. Once tourists are on board, the tram begins its gentle 20 minute ride down to the Victoria Falls Rainforest and on to the Victoria Falls Bridge.

The tram derailed last year but no tourists were injured. Tour operators suspect that a signals fault caused the accident.

Source: Tram hit by train in Victoria Falls, tourists injured - Bulawayo24 (02/07/14)
30 tourists injured in Vic Falls tram crash - The Chronicle (02/07/14)