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Sunday 31 May 2020

Over 20 L/stone families face eviction from Zesco houses

 A CHINESE attempt to get land close to the Victoria Falls is to affect over 20 families residing in Zesco houses.

In January 2017, senior chief Mukuni thwarted attempts by State House to offer the curio market at the Victoria Falls to a named Chinese to erect a Spin-Sational Ferris Wheel, similar to that at Disneyland in the United States of America.

An eviction notice was availed to The Mast dated April 29, 2020, signed by Zesco’s director of legal services McRobby Chiwela and copied to the power utility’s managing director Victor Mundende, director power generation, director human resources and the two labour movements namely POGAWUZ and NESAWU.

According to the notice, the reason for the eviction of the tenants was that the houses are in the Musi-oa-Tunya National Park.

“NOTICE OF EVICTION: Kindly be informed that the area housing the house you reside in is a national park, namely the Musi-oa-Tunya National Park not suitable for human habitation in terms of the Zambia Wildlife Act Number 14 of 2015. We are therefore giving you three months’ notice to vacate the house at hand with effect from 7 May 2020,” Chiwale said.

He added that the lease agreement allowing tenants to occupy the said houses had also expired, hence the three months’ notice was just a humanitarian gesture.

But several tenants at the Victoria Falls Power Station housing unit said some Chinese were recently seen inspecting the area where the houses are.

“It is not true that it is because we are in a national park, they want to give the land to a Chinese investor. The only wildlife we are associated with here are monkeys. We are not in any corridor of either elephants or buffalos. The reason is just a smoke screen to allow the Chinese to get the land and build something as close to the Victoria Falls as possible,” said one tenant.

“What surprised us is the fact that out of about 60 housing units, only 22 are targeted. Does it mean that only these are supposedly in the national park and not fit for human habitation?”

And a wildlife department senior officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said there has never been any concern raised by the department over the housing units at the power station.

“It is worrying that Zesco has to drag us into this. If there was any correspondence from us, why did they not attach it to the eviction notice? Also, strangely, this letter giving notice of eviction is not copied to us. Mind you, some of the houses in the area in question belong to us and we have never told them that the area is not suitable for human habitation, so I would not be surprised to see the Chinese take over the said land after the houses are demolished,” the wildlife officer said.

The officer added that the area was actually not on the department’s red zones with regard to human-animal conflict.

“If you look at the incidences of human-animal conflict that have claimed several human lives, Victoria Falls Power Station residential area is not on the list. Actually, we would rather have houses in Dambwa Site and Service demolished because the people in that area actually pose a great deal of danger to themselves and wildlife,” said the officer.

Source: Over 20 L/stone families face eviction from Zesco houses (31/05/20)

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Zimbabwean football player arrested after found with 8 elephant tusks

Hwange Football Club defender Craven Banda has been arrested after he was found with eight raw elephant tusks, police said.
The 35-year-old, an employee of Hwange Colliery Company, was arrested on Sunday after a joint police and park rangers team swooped on him in Makwika Village where he was apprehended with the tusks in a bag.
Banda is charged with contravening section 82 (1) of the Parks and Wildlife (General) Regulations SI 362 of 1990 as read with section 128 (1) (b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act [Chapter 20:14] prohibiting unlawful possession of elephant tusks without a permit or licence.
He faces a minimum nine years’ imprisonment for the offence, if convicted.
Inspector Siphiwe Makonese of Matabeleland North police said Banda was arrested at a bus stop at around 3PM on May 24 following a tip-off.
The raw tusks were inside a blue bag which he was carrying.
The left-back is registered with Hwange for the 2020 season after spending last season with Makomo FC in the Southern Region Division 1 league.
Between 2011 and 2013, he enjoyed a stint with Motlakase Power Dynamos in Botswana.
Despite high profile international efforts to stop the massacre of elephants for the illicit ivory trade, the world’s largest land animals continue to die in appalling numbers.
With illegal ivory selling at around US$730 a kilo, poachers can make life-changing fortunes.
A pan-African study last year revealed how 144,000 elephants had died over the previous decade.

Wildlife conservation to anchor tourism revival

THE Government will continue investing more resources towards wildlife conservation so as to sustain the growth of the tourism industry, which has been hard hit by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism, Climate and Hospitality Industry, Mr Munesu Munodawafa, said this during the podcast programme “Ultimate Tourism Chat”, hosted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s corporate communications department.
Given that local tourism is largely wildlife-based, Mr Munodawafa said increased conservation efforts were the biggest win for the country’s tourism sector, as the diversity of wildlife is an attraction for local and foreign travellers.
“Zimbabwe has almost all the big game that we are looking at. The Big 5 we have and we also have the second highest elephant population in the world,” he said.
“We are in the top three in terms of cheetah and giraffe. So, we have got the product and have decided that let’s keep investing in what we have.”
Mr Munodawafa said the country has stepped up efforts in combating poaching and has succeeded in protecting its wildlife.
“We have kept protecting even our fisheries and lakes, they are intact . . . we have taken advantage of the prevailing situation to start investing in rehabilitation of roads within the national parks because we believe that is key,” he said.
While tourists enjoy the Victoria Falls when they come to Zimbabwe, Mr Munodawafa said visitors were also excited in doing game drives.
This, he said was the reason why it was critical to invest in rehabilitating road infrastructure in the country’s national parks.
“We are investing a lot in roads rehabilitation particularly in the national parks right across from Hwange, Mana Pools, Victoria Falls area to Gonarezhou. We are working and excited about what is taking shape now,” he said.
ZTA acting chief executive officer Mr Givemore Chidzidzi said during their recent tourism stakeholder engagement, there was a general agreement that the recovery of the sector was not going to be an overnight event but a process.
“This process is going to be in three phases — trying to recover the domestic market and obviously strategies and interventions have been proposed on what needs to be done in that regard.
“Then obviously, we’ll go regional and international will fall into place with with time,” he said.
As the world emerges from the Covid-19 induced lockdown, Mr Chidzidzi said ZTA anticipates massive movement of tourists visiting different destinations.
In this light, he said the authority was taking digital marketing and promotion seriously, marketing the country to rest of the world through all the virtual platforms.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe president Ms Winnie Chakanyuka said during their meeting with stakeholders, discussions around the recovery plan were fruitful.
“I was quite excited about the attendance from the players.
“The debate was very robust . . . the resolution that came out of the meeting was that domestic tourism will be the anchor of the recovery plan in the short to medium term and this is the space that we have control over,” she said.
Commenting on an independent crisis communications and recovery initiatives by the World Bank on tourism in Victoria Falls, the bank’s crisis communications consultant Mrs Shelley Cox said:
“Our mandate is an important one to work collaboratively to support the tourism sector here in Victoria Falls.
“The objective of the initiative is to represent the voice of all industry stakeholders in Victoria Falls coming and working together with the Ministry of Tourism, and ZTA to build confidence in Victoria Falls by providing verified information to external audience around the preparedness and response of the destination to Covid-19 pandemic.”
Mrs Cox said the economic crisis brought by Covid-19 had crippled the tourism sector in Victoria Falls and there has been a huge amount of collaborative work to ensure the destination is well positioned for recovery.

Spike In Wildlife Poaching As Poachers Take Advantage Of Lockdown Laxities

ZIMBABWE has realised a spike in wildlife poaching as the wildlife management authority has redirected efforts towards combating the spread of Covid-19 during the current lockdown period, a top lobby has said.
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), a non-governmental organisation that promotes proper extraction and administration of natural resources, said Zimbabwe had noticed a surge in wildlife animals including lions, elephants, and rhinos being killed for poaching purposes since the start of the Covid-19 national lockdown on 31 March.
“Zimbabwe started implementing the preventive measures against Covid-19 on the 17th of March 2020 and subsequently went on national lockdown on the 30th of March 2020,” CNRG said in a statement.
“However, not much effort has been directed at ensuring transparency and accountability in wildlife management during the ongoing lockdown.
“In Zimbabwe, between January and February, three elephants were killed by poachers, but since the beginning of the lockdown, at least seven elephants have been lost in the Hwange National Park and Bubye Conservancy.
“Two white rhinos were also killed in April, although the poaching incidents were not reported publicly. Lions and buffaloes were also among some of the animals that were killed in April.”
CNRG also took to task government for failing to solve human and wildlife conflicts especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“Governments have taken unprecedented measures to curb the spread of Covid19 since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in January, however, in Zimbabwe, human-wildlife conflict which is defined as any human and wildlife interaction which negatively impacts human being’s social, economic or cultural life is an ignored epidemic.”
According to Justice for Wildlife Commission (JWC), poachers have seen closures, the diversions of law enforcement to Covid-19 related duties and reduced ranger patrols “as ideal opportunities for exploitation”.
The lack of tourists “who may unwittingly act as ‘capable guardians from within the parks only increases this risk, the JWC said.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Zimbabwe releasing new $10, $20 notes for circulation

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced that it was releasing a new $10 bank note on May 19 and that it will be followed by a $20 note going into circulation during the first week of June.
While updated with current security features, the faces of both notes have the standard design used on all Zimbabwean currency since the 1980s up to and including the legendary worthless $100-trillion denomination — a vignette of the Chiremba Balancing Rocks in Epworth, about 8 miles from Harare.
The back of the orange $10 note shows a quartet of water buffalo and Harare’s 28-story Reserve Bank Tower. The blue $20 note depicts an elephant in front of a rendition of Victoria Falls.
The bank disclosed six of the notes’ obvious security features: a recognition feature for the visually impaired; a latent image showing the denomination; optically variable ink with a color shift from magenta to green or green to azure; a security thread with “RBZ 10” or “RBZ 20”; a watermark with “RBZ 10” or “RBZ 20”; and a see-through window of the golden bird, the national symbol, on either side.
The Reserve Bank has usually refused to disclose where Zimbabwe’s bank notes are printed, but the website Zimlive revealed that a Boeing 747 registered to Air Atlanta Icelandic of Iceland unloaded 66 tons of bank notes after arriving in Harare from Leipzig, Germany, on the morning of May 14.
Zimlive speculates that based on the flight’s origin, the printing was probably done at the Leipzig branch of Munich’s Giesecke & Devrient. The Munich-headquartered company has a history of doing business with Rhodesia and its successor state Zimbabwe as far back as 1965.
An “official request” from the German government compelled the firm to stop printing Zimbabwean bank notes in 2008 in reaction to political sentiments against the human rights violations committed under the authoritarian regime of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, who resigned in 2017 and died in 2019.

Monday 25 May 2020

Weakening Zimdollar wreaks havoc

MARKET forces have caused havoc on the Zimbabwe dollar on the parallel market, with the exchange rate shooting to US$1:$70.

Last week, from Monday to Saturday, the US$:Zimdollar rate plunged nearly 23%, with tobacco farmers reportedly calling on government to urgently address the currency instability.

The rapid deterioration has dramatically exposed the futility of government's decision to reintroduce the local unit as the sole legal tender in June last year as all efforts to curb the rising exchange rate have fallen flat.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya last week told Parliament that parallel market dealers were like coronavirus.

"The Zimdollar experiment and ‘policy missteps' were never going to succeed because the right institutions, i.e a strong and independent central bank; high productivity and production; trust and confidence among others were and are not yet in place.

Economies are not commanded into prosperity," economist Prosper Chitambara tweeted over the weekend.

To mitigate against the growing monetary challenges, the central bank since 2015 has turned to quantitative easing through the issuance of Treasury Bills to increase money supply and encourage lending and investment.

However, Chitambara said this had not worked due to lack of conditions suitable for it.

"It's very easy to run a nominal budget surplus through quantitative easing. The only problem with quantitative easing when you are a highly consumption-oriented economy in an environment of low productivity is that sooner or later, you will end up in a situation where ‘too much money is chasing too few goods'," he said.

The Zimbabwe dollar continues to fall in value due to the currency lacking foreign currency, commodity or market confidence backing.

And with the global coronavirus pandemic, two of Zimbabwe's sources of foreign currency earners exports and foreign remittances are set to be adversely affected, thus weakening the Zimdollar further.

Renowned American economist Steve Hanke rated the Zimdollar as the second junkiest currency in the world.

The main effect of the continued fall of the Zimdollar has been hyperinflation as well as wage and business income erosion that has greatly slowed the economy resulting in an expected double-digit contraction for 2020.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti reiterated his call for the adoption of the South African rand to stabilise the economy.

"In July 2010 after a meeting in Boksburg, Johannesburg, with Pravin Gordhan (former South African Finance minister), I briefed my principals on the need and imperative of joining the Rand Monetary Union and Sacu [Southern African Customs Union]. The idea was ferociously shot down purely on the grounds of nationalism. South Africa was said to be brash and arrogant," Biti said in a series of tweets last week.

"Be that as it may, adoption of the rand and joining the Rand Monetary Union is the only viable midterm solution. The US$ is overvalued and has appreciated more than 2% in last two years. Zimbabwe must devalue to a stable international currency which is the rand."

As Finance minister, Biti oversaw Zimbabwe's highest consecutive growth rates between 2009 and 2012 since independence based on statistics of the country's gross domestic product at the World Bank.

"With the US$ now trading above $65 on the parallel market, it is time the regime accepted the failure beyond any shadow of doubt of its monetary and exchange rate policies. We have constantly argued that you can rig everything else, but not the economy. An urgent reset is required," he said.

Source: Weakening Zimdollar wreaks havoc (25/05/20)

Thursday 21 May 2020

Vic Falls foreign exchange: A potential game Changer

The Zimbabwean government announced that it will soon launch the Victoria Falls Securities Exchange (VFEX) as part of a broader plan to turn the renowned resort town into an offshore International Finance Centre (IFC). The VFEX will be managed by the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) and liberalized to trade in foreign currency only. The town (home to one of the 7 natural wonders of the world) has already been accorded a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for tourism and financial services in order to increase tourism arrivals and investment inflows into Zimbabwe. Last year the country received 2.29 million tourists, down 11% from the all-time high of 2.57 million realized in 2018. The decline was attributed to destination negative image issues and safety concerns after the country's harmonized elections.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows and portfolio investments into Zimbabwe have been plummeting over the past 2 years. The sharp decline in FDI Inflows from US$717 million recorded in 2018 to US$259 million in 2019 highlights the country's persistent challenges to attract long term investment despite the abundance of investment opportunities in the local market.  Short term investments as represented by portfolio investments (Financial securities and equities) plunged by more than 93% to US$3.7 million in the same period, indicating a sharp deterioration in the investment climate. In the last 4 months, foreign investors bought a monthly average of just above US$1 million worth of shares on the local bourse, down from a monthly average peak of US$26 million in 2013.

Unresolved investor concerns on Zimbabwe range from failure to repatriate capital gains and dividends, inconsistent exchange rate policies, bureaucracy in government on new investments (especially in mining and agriculture), property rights abuses and flawed rule of law. Equity investors lost millions in February 2019 when the government re-introduced the Zimbabwean Dollar and converted all foreign exchange valued investments to the local currency at an exchange rate of 1 US$: 1 ZWL$. The local currency has all but lost its entire value due to runaway inflation and this has eroded value for investors. In January 2019, the market capitalization of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange was close to US$21 billion and now it has plummeted to US$1.3 billion if open market rates are used or US$2.6 billion if the central bank fixed interbank rate is used.  

The idea of an international financial centre has worked wonders for various emerging and developed countries in the world. IFCs can be classified into domestic, global, regional and offshore financial centres. Offshore financial centres are mainly cities or countries which enact policies to attract foreign currency denominated investments, by allowing relatively free entry, flexible tax regimes and encouraging regulatory frameworks to non-resident businesses. In June 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) produced a list of top 8 IFCs who are responsible for 85% of the offshore financial flows. The list includes Singapore, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Ireland. The key success factors of offshore financial centres include the removal of all currency and capital controls, low taxation, relaxed regulatory environment (ease of doing business) and secure investment protection (guarantees to property rights). The 2008 global financial crisis however placed a lot of criticism on offshore financial centres for aiding in tax evasion, money laundering, shadow banking, market manipulation and illicit financial flows for the wealthy or blacklisted individuals. Be that as it may, increased banking transparency and institution of common international banking standards have managed to keep offshore financial centres attractive.

The launch of an offshore financial centre in Victoria Falls will provide immense benefits to investors, the town and the country as a whole. These benefits include:

Improvement to tourism numbers

World over, offshore financial services are linked to tourism. The tourism industry provides close to US$1 billion in foreign currency to Zimbabwe every year and offers employment to about 1 million citizens directly and indirectly in the supply chain. The foreign earnings are vital for the provision of liquidity to the formal economy which is starved of foreign currency. Zimbabwe was named number 9 out of ten 10 must-see tourist destinations in the world in 2019 by National Geographic Traveler. It boasts of diverse attractions which include 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites (Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Khami Ruins, Mana Pools, and Matopos). Other attractions include Lake Kariba, the Eastern Highlands and over 26 game parks and safari areas. The establishment of a financial centre in Victoria Falls will help to market the country as a safe tourist destination and provide a ripple effect to other tourism hotspots across the country.

Value for investors

Local and foreign investors on the local securities market are yearning for a long term store of value in the financial markets. The launch of the VFEX will help in the reduction of currency risk for international businesses that operate in Zimbabwe and all pension funds that have to invest a prescribed portion of their value in foreign assets to hedge against the risk of inflation. The bourse will provide real capital for local firms and help to keep foreign assets within the country. Zimbabwe has lost billions through capital outflows by local investors who store their capital in countries such as Mauritius, Panama, Switzerland and South Africa among others due macroeconomic challenges.

Infrastructure development in Victoria Falls

The growth in tourism numbers for Victoria Falls and the subsequent flow of capital will necessitate the development of banking, insurance, telecommunications, road, transport and real estate infrastructure in the town so as to support demand for financial services. The provision of such infrastructure has ripple effects to the local economy.

Attracting Global Capital

Offshore financial centres are key in attracting trade finance, mutual funds, hedge funds, unit trusts and joint ventures from global investors and corporations because of their tax haven model. Closer home, international finance is a core part of the Mauritian economy. Mauritius's financial sector is enormous, it accounts for US$630 billion of foreign assets, some 50 times the level of the country's GDP (According to an IMF report, 2017). It contributes US$1 billion to GDP and US$180 million in tax revenues (8% of total) every year, and provides more than 4% of skilled labour. If Victoria Falls can emulate even 1% of this value in foreign assets, then it will significantly tilt the balance of capital flows to Zimbabwe's advantage in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

The launch of the foreign currency indexed securities market in Victoria Falls has immense benefits for the town and the country as a whole. The initiative will undoubtedly increase tourism numbers beyond 3 million while promoting business for other hotspots that get limited coverage on the local market. International finance has transformed Mauritius into a global investment hotspot while bringing millions of tourists to the island. Unlike Zimbabwe, Mauritius and other Offshore Financial Centres are known for economic competitiveness, friendly investment climate, good governance, rule of law and a free economy. For VFEX to be a real game-changer and attract non-resident capital into Zimbabwe, the government has to provide relaxed regulations, guarantees to property rights, free repatriation of capital gains and dividends among other key success factors discussed above. It's about time Zimbabwe's economy is diversified from mining and agriculture, and be packaged for financial services.

Victor Bhoroma is a writer and freelance economic analyst. He holds an MBA from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). For feedback, mail on or follow him on Twitter @VictorBhoroma1.

Source: Vic Falls foreign exchange: A potential game Changer (20/05/20)

Victoria Falls destination recovery initiative formed

 AN independent crisis communications and recovery initiative has been formed for Victoria Falls under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Destination Development Programme supported by the World Bank with a view to better position the destination for recovery.

Cognisant of the importance of destination communication and engagement strategy as part of the tourism recovery efforts, a full-time Communications Coordinator, Shelley Cox, has been appointed for Victoria Falls under the Zimbabwe Destination Development Programme which is supported by the World Bank.

Victoria Falls Crisis and Recovery Initiative Coordinator, Shelley Cox who is optimistic of the recovery of the destination highlighted that a series of campaigns have been lined up to reinforce the preparedness and recovery response to COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we are trying to do is to build confidence in Vic Falls by providing verified information to external audiences around the preparedness and response of the destination throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As a value destination to the world we need to act quickly and collaboratively to provide a unified voice,” she said.

Cox who is a board member of the Forestry Board of Zimbabwe is passionate about wildlife and conservation. She has worked in the tourism industry for the past ten years and is co-owner of Africa Conservation Travel.

According to Cox, the Victoria Falls Crisis and Recovery Initiative Coordinator will prioritise a collaborative approach and is directly linked with the Victoria Falls Covid-19 Task Force. The initiative is also supported by the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
“We aim to represent the voice of all industry stakeholders in Victoria Falls community both large and small and right now we are focused on gathering feedback input ideas and support for this initiative. We are open to all partnerships that share this same vision. We are keen to work with partners who can share content ideas, images and stories that reinforce the preparedness and recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cox.

Exactly 24 hours after the launch of the initiative a total of 350 requests were received from external trade partners in different source markets who wanted updates on the destination, in a development that has signalled the appetite that the people have in the destination, which is famed as Africa’s Adventure Capital.

Meanwhile 10-year-old twins Lily and Lara Vincent have launched wilderness and cultural story-telling television project “The Adventures of The Twins in Africa,” aimed at showcasing Southern Africa’s abundant wildlife and cultural beauty as part of efforts to support the post-COVID-19 tourism recovery.

Having started their story-telling campaign in South Africa, Lily and Lara have plans to travel to other regional destinations which include Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. According to the two, “The Adventures of The Twins in Africa” was created to educate both the young and old as well as raising awareness on conservation.

Calls continue to be made for destinations across the globe to strengthen their capacity to provide timely information as the travel and tourism sector shifts focus from mitigating the immediate impact of Covid-19 to planning for recovery and re-opening.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Vic Falls Vendors Face Hard Times, Relocate To Rural Areas

A MAJORITY of informal traders, particularly vegetable vendors in Victoria Falls have reportedly given up on the trade with some relocating to rural areas due to loss of business as a result of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Whilst President Emmerson Mnangagwa has allowed vegetable and fruit vendors to operate as one of the key essential services, traders have found the operating environment tough as they either cannot travel to restock or have no customers to buy their goods.
With limited movement as part of the lockdown rules, most residents now prefer to buy from local supermarkets which open until 4.30 pm daily.
“Few people are visiting the vegetable markets,” said Agnes Nyathi, one of the vendors at the once-popular Chinotimba vegetable market.
She said since the lockdown, one can spend the whole day without selling any product.
“On a good day before the lockdown, you could sell goods of between US$10 and US$20, but nowadays, getting a single dollar is a bonus,” she said.
“Many have given up and some have even gone to the rural areas as they could not bear this.”
Many Victoria Falls residents are from surrounding villages in Jambezi, Ndlovu, Matetsi, Chisuma, and Monde among other areas.
With Mnangagwa announcing last Saturday, an indefinite continuation of the lockdown, vendors have nowhere to get produce for resell as travel outside the resort town is restricted.
Vendors used to order from farms in Lupane, Umguza as well as from Bulawayo, Chegutu and Harare
The situation has been further compounded by the closure of the Zambia-Zimbabwe border as vendors also used to get fresh produce from across the border in Zambia.
Zambian vendors would also cross on foot on a daily basis to sell vegetables, tomatoes, green mealies, beans, sweet potatoes, and other goods to Victoria Falls residents.
“We sometimes use trucks to travel but it’s not easy to get a pass from police,” said another vendor, Elvis Manado.
“They always tell us that going to buy vegetables is not a convincing reason for travelling hence we have to come up with some stories so that they give us.
“The other challenge is that because of the transport costs, it ends up being expensive to sell vegetables hence people now prefer to buy from supermarkets where it is cheaper, leaving us with no customers.”
Chairperson of the Chinotimba vegetable market, Lizwe Sibanda said more than half of the vendors no longer come to the market to sell their produce.
“They said people should take turns to go to the market to allow social distancing. Because of that and the difficult operating environment, some have left,” said Sibanda.
A number of vegetable traders have also resorted to selling from their homes in the high-density suburbs further compounding the situation of vendors who trade at designated markets and have to pay daily rentals to the council.

Non-tourism businesses start to re-open in Victoria Falls

VICTORIA Falls is slowly coming back to life as some businesses reopen but tourism, the town's mainstay, remains the missing link.

A snap survey around town showed that shops, construction sites, bookshops, banks and some offices are now open, joining essential service providers such as supermarkets that had remained open since the start of lockdown on March 30.

The Victoria Falls Municipality (VFM) offices are also now fully open. Tour operators and hotels remain closed but have small teams working three days a week to do maintenance and cleaning duties while the rest of workers have been sent home.

VFM Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube yesterday acknowledged an increase in human activity around town due to reopening of businesses.

"Things are slowly returning to normalcy but with a lot of care as many are scared of the virus. It's important that we look at the possibility of slowly opening our tourism. If Zambia could re-open its tourism just across the river in Livingstone, they might beat us on competition and things will be difficult for us," said Mr Dube.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu recently ordered reopening of tourism activities in Livingstone, a town that directly competes with Victoria Falls in terms of arrivals and activities. However, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Anald Musonza feels it's not yet time to re-open the industry as this could expose the country to new infections.
He said rushing might be irresponsible and fatal. "Our main source markets are still locked down hence I see no reason to rush before we put in place proper measures for safety. Social distancing is not easy in tourism because every activity requires guides and close contact. If you look at Zambia, they may have reopened tourism but Covid-19 cases are rising," said Mr Musonza.

"We cannot afford to make a mistake with Covid-19 by opening ourselves to new infections. That might totally shut the industry. We are not ready and it's not yet the right time to open. We are not worried about competition from Zambia because 90 percent of tourists who fly there come to Victoria Falls."

He said the best option will be localised opening of tourism where locals can be allowed to visit the Rainforest, game parks and other activities under strict lockdown rules.

This he said will help stir domestic tourism and also work as a yardstick to measure the impact of gradual opening of the industry The water level on the Zambezi River is now dropping, as is the norm at this time of the year, meaning business loss for the industry, Rafting Association of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Skinner Ndlovu said yesterday.

"Water level has started dropping according to our daily checks on the river," said Mr Ndlovu. He said all rafting bookings for 2020 had been cancelled and some clients were rebooking for next year, leaving the industry at a loss. Rafting usually closes at the end of March due to high water and reopens during the last week of May when water would have subsided to manageable levels.

In March, the Zambezi River Authority reported that water in the river had risen to the highest level in 13 years upstream from Victoria Falls, with more than 4 000 cubic metres falling down the world's seventh natural wonder per second up from an average of 663 cubic metres per second flow rate in February. The sound of the world's largest sheet of falling water is deafening, especially at night. It can be heard as far as the Victoria Falls Airport about 20km away while the rainbow and mist can also be spotted from a distance.

Source: Non-tourism businesses start to re-open in Victoria Falls (18/05/20)

Thursday 14 May 2020

Zambia reopens Victoria Falls after 2-month closure

LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Zambia has re-opened the Victoria Falls to the public, nearly two months after closing the World Heritage Site due to the COVID-19.

Zambia's President Edgar Lungu on Tuesday made the announcement to re-open the Victoria Falls after touring the site.

Lungu urged all visitors to follow health guidelines of wearing masks and practising social distancing.

The decision to re-open the Victoria Falls was based on the City of Livingstone not recording any cases of the disease, the president said.

The Victoria Falls has recorded the highest volumes of water in a decade, providing visitors with breathtaking beauty and splendour.
Zambezi River Authority, which monitors water in the falls, has predicted a rise in water levels until the end of May.

The re-opening of the Victoria Falls has pleased tour operators who have promised to strictly adhere to health guidelines proposed by the government.

Livingstone Tourism Association Chairperson Rodney Sikumba, who accompanied the president on the tour of the falls, said tour operators look forward to a slow but measured way onward for the tourism industry.

Health care seekers complain over poor service at Victoria Falls hospital

Victoria Falls: People seeking primary health care at Victoria Falls Hospital have expressed concern at the slow service delivery at the facility owing to limited hours they are attended to because of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
The hospital acts as a referral for areas in the whole of Hwange West constituency covering the resort town and villages around Monde, Jambezi, Chisuma, Sidobe, Ndlovu, Jambezi, Woodlands and Matetsi.
The hospital used to open its gates to the public at 7.30am but now health seekers are only allowed to enter around 9am. observed during the course of the week that each morning was characterised by long queues of about 30 to 40 people waiting to be allowed into the hospital premises for various services.
Some are pregnant women, with some being new mothers seeking healthcare for their newly born babies while others are seeking treatment for various ailments.
Only those visiting the sick were being allowed in at 7am.
Those who spoke to this publication said they were concerned over how attention was being given to Covid-19 activities at the expense of other health related needs.
“I have a new baby and have to take her for seven days check-up but have been in the queue since 7am.
“Now it’s almost 9am and they have not started attending to us. Last time when I was here for three days check up again, we spent 30 minutes just being cleared at the gate before queuing for the actual service inside,” said Norah Mudenda of Mkhosana.
Shamiso Tembo, a pregnant young woman from Jambezi said, “It’s difficult for us who are expecting. We are being kept in the queue for more than an hour and that’s tiresome.
“It would have been better if we were queuing inside the hospital not just to be checked for temperature and sanitised for Covid-19.
“At this stage, I can’t continue going to Jambezi Clinic because I am almost due and I have to be checked at the hospital.”
Even those visiting for daily sputum take for TB screening are affected.
With Hwange having no district hospital, Victoria Falls Hospital is the sole referral for Chisuma, Ndlovu and Jambezi clinics which are the only ones in the constituency.
Victoria Falls, Hwange Colliery and St Patricks’ Hospital are the three major health facilities in the district.
5 Miles Hospital in Hwange which was supposed to be a district hospital was condemned two years ago before it could be officially used because of the substandard construction work by the contractors.
It had taken more than 10 years to construct and now efforts are being made to renovate the cracked walls and floors which made health officials condemn it.
The Covid-19 taskforce identified the idle 5 Miles Hospital as an isolation centre.
Hwange District Medical Officer, Fungai Musinami recently said plans were underway to hunt for partners towards upgrading of Victoria Falls Hospital into a district hospital.