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Monday 31 October 2016

CBZ begins $12m Vic Falls housing project

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

SERVICING of roads and sewer infrastructure under the CBZ Holdings $12 million housing project in Victoria Falls has started with the financial institution saying actual work on housing structures will start in March next year.

The bank unveiled a $12 million housing project in the resort town targeting close to 1 174 residential stands as part of its efforts to complement Government’s efforts to provide houses to low income earners.

Of these about 1 008 will be high density and the remaining 166 stands being medium density housing in line with the financial institution’s strategy to deliver low cost housing.

The housing project covers the Buffer Zone between Mkhosana and Chinotimba suburbs as well as along Victoria Falls-Kazungula Road and south of Mkhosana.

CBZ Holdings chief executive Mr Never Nyemudzo led a team from the bank on a tour of the project last week accompanied by municipality housing director Mr Lot Siatimbula.

He said all the stands had been taken and the bank was now working on mortgages for beneficiaries who will soon be announced once the process is completed.

“We came to assess progress to see how far we have gone with roads, sewer and water and to see how many people from the waiting list have been forwarded to the bank. I am glad to announce that all stands have been taken up.

“When we launched in July we made some promises and we can only achieve these by monitoring progress. So far tremendous progress has been made as we have opened roads everywhere and out of the 15km we are supposed to do, 8km has been worked on,” said Mr Nyemudzo.

The roads have been surfaced with the first two bases before the final surface.

Workmen are busy on the ground laying storm drain pipes, surfacing roads and clearing land.
Engineers said they managed to get material for the first two bases from within a 12km radius casting fears the project was going to be costly because of unavailability of material due to the type of soils around Victoria Falls.

Mr Nyemudzo assured beneficiaries that the project would be successful after teething problems that threatened it were solved when the bank, municipality and residents’ leaders convened.

“What’s important to residents is our promise to deliver a quality product and the kind of progress made so far should bring confidence to them.

We are happy with progress and some of the residents that have been assessed. The challenges were only a question of communication breakdown and that has been ironed out,” he said.

He added: “The actual servicing of the stands could start in March next year depending on the municipality approving completed stages and parallel development.”

Mr Siatimbula said he was happy with progress so far.

“Construction is a process involving what we call pre-construction, which can last about five months and we should also consider the rainy season.

As a municipality we have no problem with parallel development,” he said.

CBZ has channelled $70 million towards various low, medium and high density housing schemes as a private developer or in conjunction with municipalities across Zimbabwe.

CBZ developed more than 1 000 stands in Gweru and also serviced residential stands in the Grange in Harare, Chikanga in Mutare, Mbizo in Kwekwe, while similar plans are underway in Bulawayo and Marondera as the bank seeks to contribute to housing delivery as espoused in the country’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset.

The national housing backlog is more than 1,2 million. The housing waiting list in Victoria Falls currently stands at 15 000.


Source: CBZ begins $12m Vic Falls housing project (31/10/16)

Monday 24 October 2016

ZC shelves ambitious Vic Falls stadium plan

FINANCIAL constraints have forced Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) to shelve its ambitious project of building a multi-purpose cricket stadium in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

ZC chairman Tawengwa Mukuhlani said the project would only be pursued once they get partners to assist financially.

ZC first undertook to build the country’s third Test ground in 2011, with a view of complementing the Harare Sports Club and Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo after the Victoria Falls Town Council had granted planning approval for a stadium near the iconic waterfalls.

Mukuhlani told Chronicle Sport that construction of the stadium was not part of his board’s priorities.

“There’s nothing on the cards with regards to the Victoria Falls stadium. As ZC, we don’t have finances to pursue that project. We’re going through a lean period in terms of finances. Unless we get partners, I don’t see ourselves embarking on that project anytime soon,” said Mukuhlani.

His predecessor, Wilson Manase, had in 2014 given the impression that they had laid some groundwork to source funding for the construction.

“We cannot divulge many details on where exactly the funds will come from at this stage, but we are hoping to get some help from sponsors and other partners. This is a big project that will help our game grow and we can spread it to other parts of the country. We have major sporting events happening here like the marathon and we have had sevens rugby here so we want to have cricket in this town. With so many tourists frequenting the area, we can also sell our game,” Manase said then.

The proposed stadium was going to have a seating capacity of 12 000 and architects had presented a plan, which included a clubhouse.

Former ZC chief executive officer Ozias Bvute said the Victoria Falls stadium was going to promote sport tourism, while ex-chairman of selectors Alistair Campbell said the venue would become an alternative to international tournaments that are held in Dubai.

A ground breaking ceremony was held at the site just off Pioneer Road in Victoria Falls’ industrial site between the railway line and Chinotimba suburb in October 2014, but nothing went beyond the event. Mukuhlani’s comments suggest the ZC Victoria Falls cricket ground dream has been reduced to a heap of its ambitions.

Victoria Falls has, however, been earmarked to host an International Cricket Council meeting in 2022.

Source: ZC shelves ambitious Vic Falls stadium plan (20/10/16)

Friday 21 October 2016

Victoria Falls Residents Petition Council

Victoria Falls — Council has been petitioned by residents to stop approving new housing projects because the resort town is now overcrowded.
At a recent stakeholders' meeting convened to discuss the 2017 budget, residents made the point that the existing infrastructure can no longer cope with the town's population, estimated at over 40 000.
For example, residents are going for days, if not weeks, without water, and the sewer infrastructure is showing signs of being overwhelmed as evidenced by the prevalence of burst pipes.
Currently, the town has 7 000 housing units, and a housing backlog of 15 000.
Victoria Falls, better known for being home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world -- also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, has been unable to clear the housing backlog because it has run out of land.
What complicates its situation is that the town is located within the Zambezi and Chamabondo National parks hence it cannot grow its stock of land without decimating the wildlife environment.
To avoid putting a strain on service provision, city fathers were recently advised to decline new applications for housing.
"Council is failing to supply water, but still wants to add more people. There is no land for expansion and the waiting list should also stop expanding," bemoaned one of the residents who attended the meeting.
A businessman, only identified as Moyo, said it boggles the mind that council was generating revenue through application fees from people who wish to be included on the housing waiting list when it was quite obvious that the municipality no longer has the land for new housing projects.
Council charges US$5, US$10 and US$15 for one to be included on the housing waiting list for high density, low and medium density sections, respectively.
"Why don't you suspend the process and tell those people seeking housing stands to go elsewhere like in Hwange or Lupane?" queried the businessman.
The last time council went into housing development was in 2005 when it rolled out the Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai housing initiative, which was meant to resettle victims of Operation Murambatsvina, conducted 11 years ago to restore order in various towns and cities.
The project, named Mfelandawonye suburb, saw council utilising a buffer zone that was meant to be an animal corridor, infuriating animal lovers in the process.
Notwithstanding pressure from residents, the city fathers are unlikely to take heed.
Acting town clerk, Kholwani Mangena, said council has no legal basis to suspend new applications for houses because every citizen of this country should have a roof over their head.
"I don't think as a local authority we can legally do that as people are allowed to seek accommodation anywhere in the country," Mangena said.
Meanwhile, council, along with the Hwange Local Board, have appealed to government to be allowed to take over the management of raw water from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) in order to improve the availability of the resource to their residents.
Both councils accuse ZINWA, which has the rights to pump water into their respective towns, of incompetence.
In Victoria Falls, ZINWA is failing to manage the pumping system which needs constant shifting in the Zambezi River, as water levels are rapidly falling due to excessive heat.
Mayor, Sifiso Mpofu, recently told a full council meeting that discussions with the relevant authorities were in progress to claim pumping rights from ZINWA.
ZINWA blames the poor state of its equipment and lack of funding as frustrating efforts to make running water available to residents.
Hwange Local Board secretary, Ndumiso Mdlalose, said following their appeal to government, an inter-ministerial team was dispatched to the mining town recently to assess the water situation.
The board is now waiting for feedback upon which they would decide on the next course of action to take.
"We have engaged government through an inter-ministerial team that visited us recently that we need water for development of our town," said Mdlalose.
Some of the suburbs in Hwange such as Number 1, Number 3, Chibondo and Railways have been without running water for years.
Once in a while, the local authority has been forced to dispatch water bowsers to supply residents with the precious liquid.
As a result of the water shortages, some of the residents are fetching water from Deka River, which is heavily polluted.
Some are even scouring streams that cut across the coal mining town, exposing themselves to many health hazards.
Besides enduring scorching heat without water, the majority of residents now use the bush to relieve themselves, which is further polluting the environment.
"It's no longer an issue to see people queuing for water at public taps or bowsers. One worrying factor is that we are sitting on a health time bomb because people now mostly use the bush to relieve themselves because of lack of running water," said Hwange Residents Association chairman, Lucky Daka.
Source: Victoria Falls Residents Petition Council (20/10/16)

Monday 17 October 2016

Shock As Two Vic Falls Hotels Are Hit With $5,3m Tax Bill

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism - the industry representative body for the hospitality sector - has engaged Government to keep the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority at bay after the latter slapped a $5,3 million tax bill on two hotels in Victoria Falls.

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. More hotels are under investigation and could have tax bills sent to them soon. The bulk of the unpaid taxes are said to have accrued over five years through to 2015.

Zimra says the hotels were not paying withholding tax on commissions and value added tax on food sold to foreigners as part of accommodation packages. Although the law that made the 15 percent VAT on food paid for by foreign visitors became operational at the beginning of the year, Zimra has backdated the obligations to 2010.

The hospitality sector says it had earlier agreed with the taxman to zero-rate the food. A report compiled by ZCT entitled “Zimra taxation: Effect on the tourism industry” accuses Zimra of unleashing “terror” at a time when the industry is facing high statutory, labour and utility costs.
“Since July 2016, the Zimra has unleashed terror on the tourism operators particularly those in Victoria Falls for what they deem as ‘unpaid taxes’ dating back from 2010 to 2015.

“Victoria Falls Safari Lodge was given a bill of US$1 260 000 (while) Victoria Falls Hotel was given a bill of US$4 100 000. Other industry players are currently under examination and they may also be slapped with huge bills,” said the ZCT report.

Apart from lobbying through the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Ministry, the council also wants to engage the Office of the President and Cabinet, which is superintending reforms to simplify doing business in Zimbabwe.

Haggle over laws

The major source of the clash between Zimra and ZCT stems from the difference in interpreting the law, especially on commissions that are supposed to be paid to the former.

While Zimra insists that the hospitality industry has to pay commission on the extra charge (net rate) levied on customers above the recommended or guiding price (rack rate) for products, experts say the difference usually accrues to tour operators.

In 2010 Zimra dragged tourism players to the Fiscal Appeals Court to force them to pay the commissions, but withdrew the case in January 2016. Tax authorities are said to have lost a similar case they had brought against the hunting sector in 2003.

ZCT is also annoyed that Zimra seems to be seeking to arbitrarily revise a position agreed six years ago that tax could not be charged on the food component integrated in accommodation packages for foreign tourists. The tourism sector says it “sought and got” written confirmation from Zimra that food so paid for would be zero-rated.

Zimra is said to have also confirmed this position with Ernst & Young — the tourism industry’s tax consultants — and communicated the position to stakeholders in 2010. But it now claims that the tourism industry “cannot rely on previous Zimra determinations”.

“In the above circumstances, Section 41 (liability for tax in respect of certain past supplies or importations) of the value added tax Act, stops Zimra from charging the VAT retrospectively. The current operations by Zimra are in contravention of the statutes,” the ZCT report adds.

There are concerns that should the issue go to the courts, it will drag for a long time. Zimbabwe is not the only country charging VAT on foreign accommodation as other countries such as Angola (10 percent), Malawi (16,5 percent), Mozambique (17 percent), Tanzania (20 percent) and Zambia (16 percent) do likewise.

South Africa, which exempts VAT on accommodation, has a tax reimbursable policy on all tourists on departure. Tourism Minister Dr Walter Mzembi told The Sunday Mail Business that his views on the contentious tax had not changed.

In an article published by ZimTravel — a Zimpapers magazine — Dr Muzembi said the sector had not sufficiently recovered to be a laden with an additional tax that would add to the cost of doing business.

“We have done a benchmark study of other countries in the region and the conclusion is that most do, in actual fact, charge VAT on foreign accommodation with variations observed on the quantum of the percentage charge.

“However, Zimbabwe is emerging from a different background of debilitating (European Union) economic sanctions applied over the last 15 years only repealed in November 2014 with the Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act from the US still in force.

“Zimbabwe still needs to win the perception war altogether in its traditional source markets and hence, needs to, over much more than hospitality and products, to regain its overall competitiveness,” ZimTravel quoted Dr Mzembi saying.

The 1988 Sales Tax Act recognised tourism as an exporter and zero-rated accommodation services in Zimbabwe to encourage FDI and enhance arrivals. In 2003, the Finance Ministry exempted the sector again when VAT was introduced to grow tourist arrivals into the country and benefit the downstream industries.

Dr Mzembi said South Africa had an almost US$13 billion tourism economy because of favourable policies such as exempting VAT on accommodation. state media

Source: Shock As Two Vic Falls Hotels Are Hit With $5,3m Tax Bill (15/10/16)

Saturday 15 October 2016

Shearwater to expand regional footprint

LEADING leisure and travel company, Shearwater Adventures plans to invest in Namibia and Angola as it moves to expand its presence in the Southern African region, an official has said.
Formerly a division of Innscor Africa Limited, the company presently has operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.

Shearwater group public relations manager Clement Mukwasi said plans were afoot to expand its regional footprint.

“We want to expand into other countries we have not operated from before.

“We will soon be moving into Namibia, we will probably be moving to Angola. We carried a survey in DRC on their rivers in order to find out if we can actually do rafting there, so it is something that is still being incubated, but our expansion plans are unlimited,” he said.

“In the region we are looking at (investing) between $10 million to $15 million over five to seven years.

“Each destination has its own circumstances. Our activities will be coined according to what we find in an area,” he added.

Mr Mukwasi said an investment of about $5 million would be made on the local front in the next five years. The company has also ventured into accommodation facilities and is building a camp site, which will be completed by December this year, he said.

Established in 1982, Shearwater owns and operates most of the leisure activities available in Victoria Falls including helicopters, cruises, bridge activities, rafting, safari activities and restaurants.
The company has well-developed destination infrastructure and a team of over 250 staff members based in Victoria Falls, Livingstone in Zambia and Kasane, Botswana. In 2015, the company upgraded its vehicle fleet and has a wide variety of game drive vehicles, buses and micro-buses at its disposal for tours and transfer requirements.

Source: Shearwater to expand regional footprint (09/10/16)

Thursday 6 October 2016

Vic-Falls joins World Tourism Cities Federation

VICTORIA Falls Municipality has joined the World Tourism Cities Federation, a league of top world tourism destinations which seeks to market such places worldwide.

The development is expected to help bolster Government efforts in reviving the country’s economy through rebranding sectors such as tourism.

The country’s prime resort town was recommended by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) to join the 156 member-federation.

Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Sifiso Mpofu yesterday told The Chronicle that the local authority was ready to partner ZTA in marketing the country.

“We have joined the federation since that is part of our mandate as a tourism town to market Zimbabwe. We would want to partner ZTA to market the country,” he said.

Clr Mpofu said joining the federation was a chance to spread awareness about Zimbabwe to attract more tourists.

The invitation came through the full council meeting last month ahead of a congress in China in which the Mayor was supposed to attend with all expenses fully paid for.

Clr Mpofu, however, said he could not attend the congress because the invite arrived late a few days before the congress.

“We could not make it but in future we will be part of the events as that will help us gain exposure as a destination,” he said.

Victoria Falls councillors had expressed support for the proposal for Victoria Falls to join the federation as the move would promote tourism in Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe at large.

The council resolved that the “municipality applies to join the World Tourism Cities Federation and that the council commences steps to conclude membership with assistance from ZTA.”

ZTA chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke confirmed the development but could not give further details as he was in a meeting.

Local authorities domiciled in tourism destinations meet under the federation’s banner to exchange information as they market the resorts in their areas.

Source: Vic-Falls joins World Tourism Cities Federation (05/10/16)