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Friday 27 May 2016

Victoria Falls to rename streets

The Victoria Falls Municipality has embarked on a street renaming exercise to replace colonial names in a town where 86 roads remain unnamed.

The latest development comes a year after the local authority proposed to change the names of Livingstone Way and Park Way to Robert Mugabe Way and Joshua Nkomo Way as a way of honouring the two icons.

City fathers are waiting for the government’s approval to rename the two streets after the country’s liberators.

Town Clerk Christopher Dube said a committee had been set up to spearhead the streets renaming process which is expected to end next month.

He said residents had been tasked through a multi-stakeholder committee to come up with possible names that take into consideration the history of the town and the country.

“We’ve had two meetings so far, the first one being an introductory engagement where we were explaining to people what we intend to do and we asked members of the committee to go and mobilise people to think about possible names and submit to us,” said Dube.

“We’re not concentrating on colonial names. As we speak we’ve 86 streets that have no names while we’ve new suburbs that will be coming soon and all we’re doing is being pro-active and naming all of them.”

Dube said so far only a few names have been proposed by war veterans although he couldn’t be drawn into revealing them.

He said they expect each name proposal to be accompanied by a brief history of the person to be honoured.

The town clerk said once the names have been submitted, the local authority would engage community elders, historians, chiefs and councillors for guidance on historical issues and contributions made by people to be honoured.

Asked whether the council will replace all colonial names, Dube said: “If in the process there are colonial names then we’ll deal with that.

“Already we’ve renamed two streets in honour of our liberation leaders the late Vice President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and President Robert Mugabe and we’re waiting for government approval,” added the Town Clerk.

The chairperson of the Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association (Vifacora) Morgan Dube appealed to residents to come up with new names as a matter of urgency.

He said residents were happy that the town would now bear local names they can identify with.

Source: Victoria Falls renames streets (25/5/16)

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Poachers Killed in Shoot-Out

Two Zambian poachers were killed while eight others escaped after a shoot-out with National Parks rangers at Zambezi National Park in Victoria Falls early on Saturday.
Zimbabwe rangers who were strategically deployed in the park, came face-to-face with the poachers at around 5am and gunned down two poachers, before recovering an AK47 rifle and 100kg of maize-meal.
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations manager Ms Caroline Washaya-Moyo said the eight poachers who escaped crossed back to Zambia.
"Our two rangers were strategically deployed in the Zambezi National Park and at around 5am on May 21, they came into contact with 10 Zambian poachers and killed two, said Ms Washaya-Moyo.
"Eight other poachers escaped and crossed back to Zambia. We recovered an AK 47 rifle and more than 100kg of mealie-meal," she said.
"This is a strong message to poachers never to enter our national parks," she said.
Source: Poachers Killed in Shoot-Out (24/05/16)

Poacher sets Impala snares around Elephant Hills Hotel caged

An illegal poacher who set wire snares around Elephant Hills Hotel intending to catch impala and warthogs that roam around the golf-course and grounds has been jailed for an effective four months.

Thirty-one-year old Andrew Chipembere of Chinotimba suburb in Victoria Falls pleaded not guilty to using class one traps for purposes of catching animals when he appeared before Victoria Falls magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje last Friday.

He claimed he was wrongfully implicated. “I was just walking towards the river for fishing when the anti-poaching team said I had set wire snares. I always go fishing to raise money for my children,’ said Chipembere in his defence.

The magistrate, after hearing that Chipembere had been convicted twice in 2010 and 2012 for similar offences, sentenced him to four months in jail.

“The accused came up with a story to exonerate himself from a crime he committed. It can’t be coincidental that he is found in a restricted area where wires had been set.

“The state managed to prove its case beyond doubt and he is sentenced to four months,” said Gakanje.

In September 2010, Chipembere was jailed for one month while an additional month was suspended for five years with conditions.

In 2012, he was sentenced to two months in jail and the suspended one month was invoked and he ended up serving three months.

Prosecuting, Takunda Ndovorwi said Chipembere took to his heels when he was spotted by a team from the local Anti-Poaching Unit setting wire snares at the Elephant Hills Golf Course.

He said the team comprising Tanyala Ncube and Godwin Tshuma removed the snares and laid an ambush the following day upon which they arrested Chipembere when he returned to set the wires again.

Source: Hunter sets Impala snares around Elephant Hills Hotel, caged four months (22/05/16)

Friday 20 May 2016

New attraction to open in Victoria Falls

Snake Pit, a snake park, is set to open in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe at the end of this month.
Manager Peter Mwembe said the snake park, which will be launched during the last weekend of May, is also part of a rescue operation for the endangered snake specie around the country.
“We are waiting for a permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Authority. Everything is ready and we are hopeful that we will open by month end,” Mwembe said. 
Mwembe said the snake park will be a wonderful source of enjoyment and relaxation for locals and foreign visitors who are fascinated by wild exotic and indigenous snakes.
Furthermore, he said the snake park will provide various activities that include guided tours and guests will be able to learn about some of the most dangerous snakes in the world. Snakes at the park include the red-tailed boas, rattle snakes, tiger snakes, black and green mamba, puff adders and anacondas.
 “We also offer services such as rescue and a rehabilitation centre for snakes (abandoned, confiscated, illegal collection). The Snake Pit has been assisting the city residents in their residential areas by removing spotted house snakes and as well as giving advice on how to reduce possible snakebites within their homesteads,” Mwembe said adding that snake identification service is also provided.
The snake park will be located close to the railway line in the CBD, where construction work is already in progress.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Adjust or Fall Away - the Story of Victoria Falls

By Sydeny Kawadza
Source: All Africa

A debate between Zimbabweans and Zambians rages when they compare each other's side of the Victoria Falls. It's a typical David and Goliath story.

On one side are the best of hotels and other infrastructure which match world class standards, the other is a pale shadow with nothing to write home about in terms of magnificence and glamour; or to use the anatomical figurativeness, regarding the majestic Seventh Wonder of the World, the Victoria Falls, of a woman facing Zimbabwe and having her back to Zambia.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi made that hilarious comparison in 2014. It is the case of Victoria Falls in the former case and Livingstone, across the river in Zambia.

Zimbabwe could do well to maintain its place as the better of the two sides, having all the ingredients of a world class tourist destination yet a combination of economic factors and decisions are threatening to turn the tables.

Minister Mzembi and other authorities have long called for the arresting of the situation especially with regards to pricing regimes in Zimbabwe which is exacerbated by macro-policies such as the mandatory Value Added Tax.

Take nightlife in the two neighbours for example and one will see how Zimbabwe could end up disingenuously losing out. Victoria Falls is getting quieter by the day. Across the bridge, Livingstone is slowly picking up. Having visited Victoria Falls close to three years, the change is palpable.

One can only reminisce when nightlife competed with the mighty Victoria Falls. The tourist activities in the resort town are just too many, but so exhausting that a night out for a cold Zambezi Lager could cap a good and worthwhile day.

It is this life that was the highlight of a visit to Victoria Falls. It is the night time that the small town would be alive when tourists hop from one bar to the next.

"That life is long gone, my brother! The small number of tourist you see now are in town for the food which is slightly cheaper from the hotels or for those trying something different," Marcelo Ndlovu, a taxi driver said. "By 10pm everything will be quiet and most of the people would be sleeping."

Indeed, Victoria Falls sleeps shortly after 10 o'clock. A reveller would alternatively seek solace in Chinotimba or Mkhosane suburbs, but it's a long shot to "ecstasy". The shops at Sinemane Centre are run down and no "joy" is guaranteed.

At Busi Shopping Centre, the effort is there, but besides the few revellers joined by vendors targeting the late night travellers waiting for Harare and Bulawayo-bound buses, no "joy" is guaranteed.

"Everything has changed from what we had been used to. Even in town it is so quiet and unbelievably so. Victoria Falls was so vibrant, but everything is in the past," Chenai Teguru said.

In the 1990s, DT Club was the place to go, then there was, the Explorers then wooed the "joy-seekers" and even the Victoria Falls Club drew a sizeable crowd.

"Everything is gone. We understand the other bar is going to close down so the hotel can turn it into a casino. It is sad and that should explain the silence that has engulfed the town," John Tshlolani said.

A one night stay in Livingstone proves quite the opposite from Victoria Falls. The tourists are teeming and the town is the liveliest between the "twins".

One of the night spots, 7/ 11 draws the largest crowd since the band Lloyd and The No Parking Band trekked "down south" to Livingstone where it is all happening.

The band will be based at 7 /11, a modest restaurant and bar to Zimbabwean standards, for the next six month.

In Zimbabwe, no live band has dared to move to Victoria Falls since the days of Mandebvu and Harare Mambos.

That explains a lot, doesn't it?

Josiah Phiri, a foreign currency dealer, acknowledges that Livingstone has stolen the thunder from Victoria Falls.

"We admit there are better hotels, infrastructure and other goods in Zimbabwe, but they are very expensive that even Zimbabweans travel to Zambia for basic commodities," he said.

Phiri admitted that the forex business is not that lucrative as the US-Kwacha exchange rate is always fluctuating.

However, the tourist influx is huge. On average accommodation is between US$16 to US$70 for a budget traveller.

On average, accommodation in Victoria Falls is US$90 for a single bed and breakfast booking. The food in Livingstone is relatively cheaper with a quarter chicken and chips costing US$3,50 compared to US$5 in Victoria Falls.

A Mosi Lager sells for US60c compared to US$1 for a pint of Zambezi Lager in Victoria Falls. A pint of beer can go up to US$4 in Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls-based businessman Tonderai Mutasa believes Livingstone has an advantage after Zambia devalued their Kwacha.

"The devaluation of the Zambian Kwacha has made their destination cheaper in all facets. Foreigners are also allowed to buy their goods in local currency and this gives them an opportunity to get more than what they can in Zimbabwe with the same United States dollars," Mutasa.

He said Livingstone Airport has more direct flights compared to Victoria Falls Airport and that also contributes to the numbers going up.

"The Zambians are aggressively marketing the Victoria Falls and this could be the reason why Livingston is getting more tourists than Victoria Falls," he said.

Employers Association for Tour and Safari Operators president Clement Mkwasi said Zambia had a weak currency at the moment.

"It is cheaper to spend in Zambia than Zimbabwe so we really need to revisit our pricing regime by making sure that there is a three tier system. International, regional and domestic prices should be different," he said.

"Our major source market is South Africa. They have been stung by the weakening Rand. It is best that there be a price distinction which is our sensitive to our markets."

Most residents and businesspeople called on Government to revisit the country's visa fees.

Government last year put the KAZA uni-visa system that was popular with visitors to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.

The trial run ended in December last year.

The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier uni-visa was an arrangement where a visitor pays visa fees once and enters different countries on different occasions.

According to the Zimbabwe visa regime Category B visitors from UK/Ireland pay US$55 for single entry and US$70 for double entry.

Visitors from Canada pay US$75 for single entry while the rest of the world pays US$30 and US$45 for single and double entries respectively.

The KAZA uni-visa regime costs US$50 for multiple entry between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

All countries in Category B get visas at point of entry and they are the countries targeted by the KAZA.

Minister Mzembi has urged Treasury to consider scrapping off the 15 percent tourism levy on accommodation in Zimbabwe. The tourism industry is one of the key sectors of the economy which contributes an average of $1 billion annually despite the negative economic climate.

The levy has led to a sharp increase in accommodation leading to tourist flight to Zambia.

Source: Adjust or Fall Away - the Story of Victoria Falls (16/05/16)

Monday 16 May 2016

Vic Falls gets a face lift: 3 Exciting improvements

The Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls has for a long time been dependent on Zambia for all their air travellers, who used to have no other option but to land at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone, before crossing over to see the longest continuing sheet of the Falls from the Zim side. 

But now, the addition of a new airport on the Zimbabwean side has breathed new life into the tourist-driven town of Victoria Falls. 

The airport is not fully operational yet, but aircraft carrying international travellers descend on the new airport regularly, despite the fact that it is still under construction at some parts. 

Chinese tourist dominate custom control, and every other establishment in the area. 

Restaurants, hotels and adventure companies, have realised the potential of the Vic Falls anew and started profusely upgrading their offerings. 

Here are three exciting Vic Falls developments happening in 2016:

Iconic hotels are upgrading under new management  

Following a take-over from African Sun and Legacy Hospitality in September 2015, five of African Sun’s hotels - The Kingdom at Victoria Falls, Elephant Hills Hotel, Hwange Safari Lodge, The Monomotapa Hotel and Troutbeck - have been undergoing improvements in a bid to usher in a new era for tourism in Zim. 

Since, the 100-room Hwange Safari Lodge has been completely upgraded on a phased basis into a 4-5 Star lodge with a new waterhole.

The Monomotapa Hotel is planned for a face-lift to all its 240 rooms, with the addition of a new outdoor pool area and additional restaurant facilities. At the famous Troutbeck, it is the intention to retain the unique Scottish Highlands feel and atmosphere, whilst expanding the leisure activities.

Also at the iconic Elephant Hills and Kingdom at Victoria Falls, improvements are lined up. In the 90s, these hotels were state-of-the-art establishments. And since, the hotels have been maintained, but just.

The Kingdom at Victoria Falls was built almost an exact replica of the Palace at the Lost City at Sun City in SA. The latter has also gone under extensive refurbishment - amounting to a total of over R1bn
The Kingdom will follow suit with planned upgrading of the bathrooms in the suits to have modern showers instead of the current baths with showers inside. Mini bars will also be added into all rooms in the hotels, and the old casino area, which is currently standing empty, will be transformed into conferencing facility seating up to 1 200 delegates.
Both The Kingdom and Elephant Hills are also undergoing soft refurbishments, whereby linen has been replaced and repainting is being done on both interior and exterior walls.

At the Elephant Hills, extensive landscaping has been done to improve the surroundings of the hotel, and to improve the 18-hole golf course on the estate. This golf course is one of the hotel's best assets, as it is the only hotel in the Vic Falls with this feature.

The food and beverage offering has been improved with a new chef at the properties. Interesting is the addition of many Asian-inspired dishes on the buffet menu, specifically designed to appeal to the great number of Chinese groups in both the Elephant Hills and Kingdom Hotels. 
New environmentally friendly lodge to open in June

Apart from the old iconic hotels upping their game, new additions to accommodation arena has been announced. 

The new Batonka Guest Lodge has announced its arrival in June this year, aiming to provide an environmentally friendly, green tourist experience. According to the website, the lodge has been built with recycling grey water systems in place, and will be solar-powered.

Only 2km from the Vic Falls, it will offer 22 rooms, each with a private veranda overlooking the gardens.

The rooms include one family suite and eight inter-leading rooms as well as one room offering universal access.
The Victoria Falls Airport
The newly built Victoria Falls airport, which started operations in January this year, has postponed the official opening of the new hub as refurbishment of the old terminal building is still underway.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe said work was underway to turn the old terminal into a domestic terminal, and refurbishments at the building, which started in March, were only 20% complete.

The commissioning of the airport was supposed to be done in May, but has since been scheduled for the second part of 2016. 

Monday 2 May 2016

Tourism sector pushes for VAT reduction

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) has warned that if the current value added tax (VAT) on foreign accommodation was not reviewed, tourist arrivals would decline by 75%, costing the economy over $100 million per annum.
Last year, government introduced a 15% VAT on accommodation for foreign tourists as a way to raise revenue for the cash-strapped government.
ZCT chief executive Paul Matamisa told Standardbusiness last week that the issue of VAT had affected the sector’s profitability. He said the industry was affected through a drop in arrivals, while some players chose to absorb the VAT burden either partially or wholly “to keep peace with their markets”.
“The industry believes it is prudent to start off at 5% and gradually raise it. VAT for foreign tourists must be reduced to 5% to allow for growth, while on the other hand allowing businesses to claw back to profitability,” Matamisa said.
A research done for ZCT showed that VAT on foreign tourist accommodation would result in a 75% drop in arrivals, particularly overseas tourists and the country would lose $124 million per annum.
Matamisa said overseas arrivals were still depressed. He said after 1999, a number of international markets retreated, leaving Zimbabwe in an abysmal tourism situation in terms of incoming business.
“We have been struggling to raise the arrivals to the 1999 levels when we had the highest arrivals from those source markets that hit a record high of 600 000 tourists. To date, on an annual basis we are struggling to attain 50% of that number,” he said.
“Lately, we have been creeping slowly upwards, but the best we have achieved from the entire overseas market is 295 898, which we got in 2015. This was still less than 50% of the arrivals we got at the peak in 1999.”
In response, government has tabled plans for the tourism industry to start charging on a sliding scale of between 0 and 15% in various currencies, preferably the South African rand.
Matamisa said the issue had to be approached holistically as the European market was the country’s major source of tourists followed by America.
“It is not as easy as people are saying and we are still engaged with the government to see how we can push it forward. There has to be a holistic approach to it. According to trends and statistics, our biggest source market is Europe, followed by the United States. So, it becomes tricky if we just look at the South African market,” Matamisa said.
“Tourists come to Zimbabwe from South Africa because their packages will be put together from South Africa, so the issue of incentives has to be put together holistically.”
In his January monetary policy statement, RBZ governor John Mangudya urged tourism players to charge tourists from China and South Africa in their native currencies to make the sector competitive.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi told Standardbusiness on Thursday that the industry was working with RBZ on the issue of currency and the sliding scale suggestion.
“We will look at a sliding scale for source markets currency by currency, not just the rand, to motivate the use of other currencies. What we are looking at, in the case of South Africa as a source market, are seamless products extended from Zimbabwe to South Africa in rands in terms of cost-effectiveness and pricing,” Mzembi said.
“To encourage the industry to accept the rands, we had offered a review, but on a sliding scale of 0 to 15% which is now in the hands of industry to review and accept. The industry is still assessing that proposal and is yet to come back to us. It is actually possible to have a sliding scale of 0 to 15% on the back of the acceptance of the South African rand from the industry.”
He said stakeholders would obviously have to do their own cost based analysis studies to see whether it was worth it and included the ZCT on meetings at the RBZ.
In 2015, ZCT polled 145 tourists staying at Victoria Falls and discovered 74% to be using international agents in making their trip, with only 10% preferring local agents.
The average budget for tourists was $1 900 per visit. however, ZCT found that 52% of them underestimated the costs and ended up spending more than their budget. The average stay for a tourist is two to three nights.
In Zimbabwe, pricing is the most expensive in the region due largely to the strength of the United States dollar.
As such, the benefit in using weaker currencies could make it cheaper for tourists, especially those from countries whose own currencies are weaker against the dollar, such as South Africa.
Nearly 36% polled by the ZCT in Victoria Falls indicated that they would either decide not to visit Zimbabwe or reduce their length of stay.
Zimbabwe Tour Operators’ Association president Wengayi Nhau said as a result of their decision to absorb the costs of VAT, their profits had dipped and affordability of packages became less competitive.
“It doesn’t only affect our profitability but also affordability on the part of the traveller/tourist as he is now paying 15% more. I am sure you are aware that the United States dollar being the base currency in circulation in Zimbabwe, is one of the strongest currencies in the world and actually the strongest in the sub region,” Nhau said.
“In principle, we put a package together first and then we have to apply 15% VAT on the package and in most cases we have had to cede up to 8% of our mark-up/commission towards the VAT as a way to keep the package within affordable levels.”
Board of Airlines Representatives chairperson Winnie Muchanyuka said in terms of flights, only domestic tickets were subject to VAT.
“Airline tickets for international travel are VAT exempt. Only tickets for domestic travel are subject to 15% VAT, for example Harare to Johannesburg is VAT exempt while Harare to Bulawayo has a 15% VAT charge. Air travel is perceived as a luxury and is easily affected by changes in the economy like cash shortages, decrease in disposable income, currency restrictions, total cost of travel, including landing arrangements at the destination,” Muchanyuka said.
“When individuals or companies face such challenges, travel is often a target for cost reduction. We airlines are facing that currently where individuals and companies are curtailing their travel spending or reducing the frequency of travel.”

Vic Falls cop ‘steals $2k’

A police officer stationed in Victoria Falls has been arrested on allegations of stealing about $2,000 from the force. Constable Welvis Dumbu, 32, of Chinotimba suburb, was charged with three counts of theft of trust property when he appeared before Victoria Falls magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje. 

He was not asked to plead and remanded to May 10 on $50 bail.

As part of his bail conditions, Cst Dumbu was ordered to reside at his given address until the matter is finalised and not to interfere with witnesses.

His lawyer Givemore Muvhiringi said Cst Dumbu was arrested at 5PM on Saturday and was made to sit in the charge office for the whole night without being informed of his crime.

He described this as torture in terms of the Constitution. Takunda Ndovorwi, for the state, said investigations are still ongoing as it is suspected that there could be more crimes that the cop committed.

“Between the period November last year and April 19, the accused was at Victoria Falls police station and was in charge of handling cash and keys for a safe which had deposit fines from the Z68J book number 51/2015,” said the prosecutor.

Cst Dumbu was supposed to submit $855 to the accounts department at the Victoria Falls magistrates’ courts but he allegedly converted it to his own use.

On the second count, the court was told, Cst Dumbu pocketed $370 in police funds between March 18 and March 29. Of the amount, $115 was recovered when he attempted to return it.

“On the third count, between November 5, 2015 and March 31, 2016, the accused had $870 which he was supposed to submit to the ZRP PGHQ for the organisation’s activities but he converted the money to his own use.”