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Tuesday 30 June 2020

Tourism players battle overhead costs

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
Tourism operators are battling overhead costs with no new income being generated, as lockdown measures to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19 continue.
One of Victoria Falls’ most upmarket eateries, Lookout Cafe, is going through such an experience, but has high hopes for the future and is working on strategies to reposition its operations beyond the pandemic.
The facility is being operated by Wild Horizons, one of the leading tour operating companies in the country, which employs close to 100 locals. The facility resumed business last year in December following extensive refurbishment after being gutted by fire one Christmas Eve in 2018 where property worth thousands of dollars was destroyed.
With eateries being some of the top facilities on travellers’ shopping list, the ban on international travel dealt a heavy blow to the business, as no tourists are coming since March.
Wild Horizons chief executive Mr Gary Archer said focus has been on clearing all perishable stock, which would have gone to waste because of the lockdown. He said the cafe has, however, managed to maintain its staff at least for now although mostly on reduced salaries.
“The Lookout Café closed its doors at the start of the lockdown period. Since then there has been zero revenue generated while maintaining all overhead costs of the restaurant.
“In the current environment a number of measures have been put in place, which include selling off perishable food and beverage stock items to reduce inventory levels.
“All power supply items in the form of gas lines, water lines and electrical points have been switched off to reduce overhead costs, “ said Mr Archer.
He said the company has come up with comprehensive standard operating procedures for post Covid-19 travel.
“Currently all restaurants are closed countrywide for sit-in diners. While we wait for our ministry to issue the greenlight to open the restaurants, we also look to see when the borders may open with flights returning to Victoria Falls.
“The restaurant will initially look to open for lunch trade, followed by dinner service once the tourism numbers begin to rise. We are conducting in house training programmes with our staff, to ensure we keep them in top form,” Mr Archer said.
To prepare itself for reopening, the business has maintained the evergreen garden with a number of herbs and vegetables planted. Maintenance and décor work has been carried out at the facility along with scheduled deep cleaning cycles and fogging, explained Mr Archer.
“Wild Horizons permanent staff are still employed, albeit on reduced wages. We are in regular discussion with our staff and will react as the environment requires. We are very mindful of the difficult times staff and their families are going through during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our aim is to still provide quality food and beverages at the Lookout Café and while we are confident that the tourism and trade numbers will increase organically, we are fully aware and compliant with the regulations and guidelines stated by Government and the World Health Organisation to provide a safe environment for our diners to enjoy their experience with us, “ he said.— @ncubeleon

Covid -19 pandemic mauls Zimparks wildlife operations

The novel coronavirus pandemic has hit hardest all wildlife conservation efforts by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) as its main lifeline earnings from foreign tourism have dwindled to critical levels.
Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo told the Herald recently that lack of tourism revenues had badly affected his organisation to an extent that the authority would soon fail to pay its more than 2000 workers and meet other financial obligations.
“The situation is bad and very soon we will not be able to pay our rangers,” he said. “Tourism is dead for now and we are appealing to the Government to allow us to open our parks and other income generating activities.
“Zimparks relies heavily from tourism earnings for its operational activities. Wildlife tourism plays a critical role in our foreign currency generation through game viewing and licensed hunting. We also use the proceeds to respond to human wildlife conflicts.”
Tourism in Zimbabwe and most other African countries has been hard hit by coronavirus lockdowns with hotel bookings canceled, safaris postponed and cultural tours stopped.
“Zimparks revenues have fallen drastically – by up to nearly 100 percent,” Farawo said.
“We are struggling to stay afloat and want the Government to allow us to open tourism activities to enable us to pay rangers and meet our mandate. Between January and June this year, we received 973 cases of human wildlife conflict cases and we only managed to respond to only half of the cases.
“We need money to pay rangers allowances, we need money for fuel and patrols. The situation is dire and if we don’t pay rangers and support their operations, this might pose serious problems for the country’s wildlife conservation efforts.”
The Victoria Falls, the country’s premier resort spot, national parks and other recreation sites under Zimparks have closed down as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak which has killed more than 477 000 people out of the over 9,2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus across the world.
Several safari operators have shut down their operations while local communities living close to the conservation areas have also been affected.
Lockdowns have piled financial pressures and strain to tourism operators and communities that depend on wildlife tourism.
“We are appealing to all other stakeholders for support,” Farawo said. “We need help and we appreciate all the assistance we are getting from our partners. It’s not enough and we need help to fill in all the critical gaps.”
Zimparks requires between US$20 million and US$25 million a year to fund its wildlife conservation activities.
“We are in the midst of the hunting season and our revenue is zero due to the Covid – 19 lockdowns. The impact has been severe and more than 40 people have been killed by wild animals while 38 others were wounded,” said Farawo.
“Elephants, crocodiles, lions and buffaloes are still a major problems and we are incapacitated to respond effectively whenever we receive distress calls from local communities living close to wildlife conservation areas.”
The tourism sector in Zimbabwe and most other African countries have suffered badly due to the Covid -19 outbreak.
It is estimated that more than 70 million tourists visited Africa last year, according to the UN World Tourism Organization to enjoy safari tours, game drives and trophy hunting.
But with airports and borders now closed, most of this income has been lost.
Fears abound that the loss of revenue will increase poaching activities as impoverished families search for food to survive and game patrols weaken.
Zimparks does not receive government funding and it largely depends on tourism revenue to run their operations and care for the animals and plants in protected areas.
“Without money we cannot do frequent patrols as we need fuel for rangers. We need food and allowances for rangers to go on patrol,” said Farawo.
“Zimparks needs to patrol about 13 percent of this country to protect our wildlife and ensure the survival of the tourism sector. The Hwange National Park is almost the size of Belgium and we need resources to patrol and protect our wildlife.”

Zimbabwe's striking nurses declare total shutdown after govt snub

HEALTH workers in the country's public hospitals Monday declared a complete shutdown of the sector after government continued to pay a deaf ear to their plight.

Zimbabwe nurses downed tools some two weeks in protest over low wages and poor working conditions.

They have further rejected government's 50% salary hike coupled with US$75 monthly allowance.

The Zimbabwe Nurses Association, in a Memorandum to all nurses in government-owned health institutions, said health workers had reached a breaking point and could not survive on their meagre monthly earnings equivalent to about US$40.

The association said "every affected member must immediately stay at home".

"Government's lack of action, and more importantly the refusal to engage the membership leadership on the on-going job action suggests to us that it has still not accepted that its workers are incapacitated," the memorandum, dated June 29 reads.

"Had it so accepted, urgent steps to address this situation would have been taken the moment we advised of our intention to withdraw labour."

The nurses said while the government would not want them to make reference to the parallel market rate, reality on the ground was that pricing for goods and services was pegged against parallel market rates, currently at over US$1:100.

"For every US$100.00, a person will get ZW$10,000.00. Using this measure, it means the majority of nurses are earning anything between US$30 – US$40. It is the rate we are faced with when we have to transact even in established supermarkets.

"To put this in perspective, if one is to walk into a supermarket today with ZW$1 ,000 (being one third of the majority of nurses salaries, one would only be able to buy 2 litres cooking oil, two kg of sugar, 2 litres of drink, 2 kg of rice and 2 loaves of bread."

The nurses association said despite having to buy groceries, the health workers were also faced with other expenses including rent, school fees, medical fees and other essentials.

"For those who own cars, they cannot even fuel it up to full tank anymore because it now costs more than their salaries to do so.

"Therefore, the reality which any reasonable person will accept is that we are incapacitated from attending work, even if we wanted to," the nurses said.

The nurses described their salaries as "slave wages" adding that under the circumstances, they were not different from the unemployed.

"Having discussed this with the association's executive, we hereby call upon every nurse in Zimbabwe, from those working at a rural clinic in the most remote parts of the country, all the way up to those working at the central hospitals, to immediately do the following; "For those who have not been going to work, continue withholding your labour. To those who have been subsidising our employer by going to work, mostly because you may have an alternative source of income, we call upon you to reconsider this and withdraw your labour as well."

While nurses in Zimbabwe were getting an average US$40 a month, in South Africa, the same are getting at least R17 000, which translates to more than US$1000.

In Zambia, the least paid nurse gets US$400.

"We have taken this opportunity to write to our constituency of nurses just so as to reinforce what we are all going through.

"Currently, the RBZ trading rate of the Zimbabwean Dollar to the United States Dollar is at $57.30. What this means is that for every US$100, a person would legally get ZW$5,730.00."

"0ur survey has shown us that the majority of workers are not being paid ZW$5,730.00. What this means is that the ordinary nurse is earning far below US$100, even using the already rejected 50% increment offered by the government."

Source: Zimbabwe's striking nurses declare total shutdown after govt snub (30/06/20)

Monday 29 June 2020

Former football administrators donate to Vic Falls families

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
SOME former football administrators in Victoria Falls have donated mealie-meal to more than 100 vulnerable families in the resort town to help cushion them from effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.
About 130 beneficiaries were identified in Chinotimba suburb’s Railways section where there is a huge population of pensioners and elderly residents as well as in Mkhosana suburb’s Mfelandawonye section.
Former Wankie FC player Nyaro Mumba and former Busy Island player Thembani Sibanda, who are now both visually impaired, Jabulani Ndebele (Busy Island), Andrew Mpala and Dumisani Mathe (12 Stars) were among the beneficiaries.
Chinotimba Old People’s Home also benefitted.
United Kingdom-based Winsen Sibanda, the former Intundla player and manager, Whispher Mpala former Victoria Falls United manager, former 12 Stars coach Dumile Mpofu and former 12 Stars player Dumisani Mathe came up with the initiative.
Intundla, Busy Island and Victoria Falls United were among the first teams to play professional lower division football in Victoria Falls.
Each recipient family received a 10kg packet of mealie meal.
In an interview during the door-to-door delivery of the mealie meal, Mpala said the gesture is a way of giving back to the community that groomed them to become footballers.
"I have retired from football and am currently training to be a full time pastor, while Sibanda also left football when he moved to the UK. Sibanda is a well-known football administrator in this area. We sat down as legends and decided to help our community. We are what we are because of this same community that is now struggling because of Covid-19, hence we decided to give back the little that we can,” said Mpala.
Mpofu said they targeted Railways section because that’s where Sibanda grew up.
Victoria Falls Ward 5 councillor Richard Mguni, who was part of the door-to-door distribution, commended the gesture saying it will go a long way in cushioning the vulnerable and restoring hope among residents.
“We reached 130 families in Railways section as each got 10kg of mealie meal. We also donated to Chinotimba Old People’s Home and we are so grateful to the donors,” Mguni said.
One of the beneficiaries Bekezela Sithole (46), an unemployed widow from Chinotimba, said she was grateful for the donation as she had run out of mealie meal with her three minor children, while a National Railways of Zimbabwe pensioner Lovemore Rabson Jambo (65) said he had been struggling to buy basics for his orphaned grandchildren. – @ncubeleon

Saturday 27 June 2020

Vic Falls flea markets reopen. . . while curio vendors are yet to open

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
FLEA market traders in Victoria Falls have resumed business after the municipality allowed them back to their vending stalls.
Informal traders such as curio vendors and flea market operators are some of the businesses that were closed because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Some were now operating from their homes, displaying clothes on verandas for sale, resulting in raids by municipal police.
A survey by a Chronicle news crew during the week showed that the Victoria Falls Municipality (VFM)-owned Chinotimba Flea Market is now open while Comesa Market, a private facility popularly known as Emaplankeni, has been opened to those running shops, while vending stalls remain closed.
Curio vendors are yet to open probably because their major customers are tourists.
Flea market traders said while they are happy to be back, business is very low as there are few customers.
“I started on Monday but as you can see business is very low. We are displaying stuff that we had ordered between December and January and we can’t restock now since the borders are closed. The tourism industry is closed because of Covid-19 hence people’s buying power is next to zero,” said Ms Gugulethu Sibanda, who sells a variety of clothes.
Chinotimba Flea Market chairman Mr Trynos Taruvinga said the majority of vendors are still struggling to raise $265 which is needed upfront for annual licence renewal as well as rent which is pegged at $331 per month per stall.
“About 37 of the more than 60 members have managed to come back while some are still struggling with licence renewal and money to restock. We are back because of hunger. People couldn’t sell at home because they were being raided by authorities,” said Mr Taruvinga.
He appealed to Government to consider them when giving out grants, saying none of their members had benefited so far.
Each vendor is encouraged to wear a mask and have a sanitiser.
VFM Housing and Community Services director Mr Brian Nyamande said they had fumigated the market places.
“Yes, we have since allowed traders in the informal sector to return to the market but the conditions are that we had to fumigate and disinfect the premises before re-opening. They are under stringent control and guidance of our public health and social services teams as we try to enforce social distancing and other regulations,” said Mr Nyamande.
He said the local authority, together with the Covid-19 taskforce which he chairs in Victoria Falls, considered the economic plight of vendors who had been out of business since start of the lockdown in March.
The disinfection exercise was done last week.
Mr Nyamande said they will be strictly monitoring for adherence to guidelines such as social distancing and sanitising of hands.
“We have put in place sanitisation and other public health measures and hope all will go well. Our main thrust is to strike a balance between health and economic viability of these people whose livelihoods are entirely dependent on vending,” said Mr Nyamande. — @ncubeleon

Friday 26 June 2020

78-year-old villager fined US$20k for killing leopard

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
A 78-year-old man from Dete in Hwange District has been ordered by the court to pay the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) US$20 000 after he trapped and killed a leopard.
Amos Moyo of Thuthukani village on the edge of Hwange National Park used an axe to finish off the marauding big cat that had been caught by a trap he had set in Vulamashava bush.
The trapped leopard attacked Moyo on Thursday last week when he went to check the trap, resulting in him sustaining serious injuries on both arms, head and face.
The leopard pounced on Moyo who used his hands to wrestle it after his axe had fallen down.
He later managed to reach for the axe and struck the leopard to death but almost lost his right eye.
Moyo asked his nephew Perfect Ndimande (20) to carry the carcass home where they skinned it with the help of Mr Tayi Moyo and Mr Gudu Justice Moyo.
Moyo and Ndimande were jointly charged with making, possessing or using Class Two traps and another of removing any animal or any part of an animal from any land or from one place to another on the land, when they appeared before Hwange magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje.
Moyo told the court that he decided to trap the big cat after it killed his goat.
“One of my goats was killed sometime in March and I saw some leopard spoors. I was frustrated when nothing was done after I reported to authorities,” said Moyo.
He was sentenced to 12 months in prison which was wholly suspended for five years on condition that he does not commit a similar offence. He was also ordered to pay ZimParks US$20 000 being the value of the leopard.
The magistrate said she had taken into account Moyo’s advanced age and that he almost lost his life, which was enough punishment.
Ndimande was fined $1 200 or alternatively four months in jail if he fails to pay the fine by July 31 and in addition, he was sentenced to a further two months in prison which were suspended on condition he does not commit a similar offence within the next five years.
Ms Gakanje said she considered that Ndimande did not participate in setting the trap while Tayi and Gudu were not charged because they only assisted in skinning the animal.
The carcass, skin and trap were forfeited to the state.
Prosecuting, Ms Jamesina Makanza said Moyo committed the crime between Thursday last week and Sunday.
“During the period between 18 and 21 June Moyo set a Class Two spring jaw trap in Vulamashava bush and caught the leopard. He found the trapped leopard alive and it attacked him before he killed it.
Investigations by ZimParks rangers who were on patrol led to Moyo’s homestead where they found the leopard carcass hanging from a tree and the skin spread on the ground to dry. Moyo and Ndimande were then arrested. — @ncubeleon.

Zambia reopens its air borders to boost the economy

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has announced the reopening of the country’s air borders and airports.
He said the decision was to boost the economy of the country which has been badly hit by restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Zambia will be one of the first countries to reopen its air borders in Africa amid the covid-19 pandemic.
Zambia has registered 1,497 coronavirus cases and 18 deaths, according to President Lungu.
“We have to get back to work (…), including in the tourism sector. I am therefore announcing the immediate reopening of all international airports,” Mr Lungu said in a radio and television address.
According to President Lungu, his country has lost about 1 billion euros as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Zambia’s economy is struggling with the country having $3 billion of Eurobonds outstanding.
It also owes $2 billion to commercial banks, $2 billion to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and a further $3 billion to China.
The country is Africa’s second-largest, copper-producing nation.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Tourism re-opening to save small players from permanent collapse

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
ALTHOUGH the Covid-19 pandemic has almost grounded various industries leading to streamlining of workforce due to loss of business, the tourism sector players remain hopeful of better prospects.
Following Government stance to rope in all stakeholders in a drive to rebuild the country’s image and economy, tourism players including hoteliers have come to the party by launching a massive marketing drive for Destination Zimbabwe.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu a fortnight ago gave the players in the tourism industry in Victoria Falls the nod to tour the Rainforest to take footage to be used to market the country.
Working with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) the sector organised itself and toured the World Heritage site over two days.
The Victoria Falls National Park, which houses the Falls and Rainforest was closed in March as a result of the coronavirus.
Under the latest marketing offensive, the tourism industry in Victoria Falls has already started reaching out to clients, agents and partners all over the world riding on the already existing “We are Victoria Falls Initiative”.
Operators said the sector is not discouraged by the lockdown, which has seen the Falls reaching an all-time peak in over a decade albeit with no tourists witnessing it.
Ms Shelly Cox, who coordinates the “We are Victoria Falls Initiative” paid tribute to Government and ZimParks for affording tour operators the chance to get into the Rainforest and witness the volume of water cascading over the Victoria Falls.
“It was rejuvenating and motivating for many to be back in one of the world wonders and be reminded of how blessed we are to have this Unesco World Heritage site as part of our natural heritage in Zimbabwe,” she said.
“After the inaccurate and negative reports in November about the water levels running dry, it was positive for many to be able to share with our traveler-friends and colleagues around the world that Victoria Falls is indeed flowing in full force following good seasonal rains earlier this year.”
Elephants Walk operator Mrs Gail Van Jaarsveldt said the marketing drive will further boost the international community’s confidence on Zimbabwe.
“Now we are going out there to tell the world that despite the ‘Falls is dry’ negative publicity, we will be the Mighty Falls again after Covid-19. The Falls is displaying its spectacular beauty. We have benefitted from international donors for Covid-19 fight and 90 percent of these donors are people who have been to Victoria Falls before. We are going to put a newsletter marketing the destination so they, together with our agents, come back,” said Mrs Van Jaarsveldt.
Wild Spoor Safaris founder Mr Lewis Mangaba said they cannot wait any longer to host international clients again.
“We got pictures and we are sending them across the globe to all our contacts and agents who are mostly from USA, Europe, Germany and Australia,” he said.
Another indigenous operator Mr Oliver Mwembe of Inkwazi Tours and Transfers said effective marketing with enable the country to regain business lost due to the lockdown.
“It’s nice to see the Falls at their fullest although they’re being wasted by Covid-19 as we’re losing tourists. We’re going back to the drawing board to tell the international world and travel agents that we are working hard to be back on board and hope Government will reopen domestic tourism soon,” said Mr Mwembe.
Government is engaging stakeholders with a view to open domestic tourism.
Jafuta Foundation director Ms Danielle Connolly who is also a Yoga teacher said it was time to pull all strings for the country.
“We are filled with joy to have been accorded opportunity to experience the Falls for the first time in three months. This is the time to make sure we really market ourselves and we will use Yoga platform to reach out to many people so that when tourism reopens more people will come and also have a better understanding on importance of wellness,” she said.
An executive from Sable Sands in the Hwange National Park, Ms Marleen Post said safari and tour of the Falls are the major drawcards.
“International travellers come to the country for safari and the Falls. We have heard the Falls so loudly every day and seen the green tropical forest from afar as they are at their peak. We are closed as safaris because travellers cancelled but we have managed to maintain staff. It’s up to us as operators to aggressively market the destination and activities so that we also help maintain our staff,” she said.
Mr William Henson from Shongwe Lookout said reopening the industry will save smaller operators that are on the verge of collapse.
“We hope we can open soon for domestic tourism as each day that passes without an opportunity to host tourists is a day closer to some of the smaller tourism operators having to close down permanently. We are all eager to reignite our tourism and be able to support the livelihoods that tourism sustains and our natural wild open spaces that Zimbabwe is renowned for,” said Mr Henson.
Proprietor of Mbano Manor Hotel Mrs Matifadza Martha Nyazema said the initiative was an opportunity to use footage of the Falls to make the global clients view the Falls during the lockdown.
“We are reminding the world that this bucket list natural wonder still awaits them” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Excellence Trails Safaris’ Mr Sisa Mthunzi, who is into photographic safaris, who said all hope is not lost for a post-Covid-19 tourism boom.
“The great footage we got will serve as a fantastic marketing tool to try and engage agents and future travelers and assure them that despite the lockdown, nature has not been disturbed and we await them to visit,” said Mr Mthunzi.
Victoria Falls Guide’s Mr Tony Peel said the gesture was long overdue as it should have been done earlier, as he advised operators to adjust operations to survive.
“Everything that the industry and decision makers do now is going to dramatically show how strong tourism will rebound in Zimbabwe for 2021. Tourists want to return as soon as they can hence individually and collectively, we as operators and agents should market Victoria Falls like never before.
“Tourists will return in big numbers as long as we make the right decisions hence the future of our tourism is in our hands,” he said.
The drive to market Destination Zimbabwe is well in line with the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra adopted by President Mnangagwa immediately after his inauguration in 2017 as he sought re-engagement with the international community.
Since then Zimbabwe is on a rebranding offensive since after the country’s ranking as a viable tourism and investment destination was compromised over two decades owing to bilateral differences between Harare and some western countries.
In 2018 the country launched a national branding exercise to enhance business growth, increase tourism arrivals, restore hope for a better future for citizens and investor confidence and thus facilitate wider economic growth towards an upper middle-income income country by 2030.
Each province was tasked to come up with its branding initiatives towards rebuilding the country’s image.
President Mnangagwa reiterated the call recently when he urged all provinces and exporting companies to set specific trade and export targets so that they contribute more to national earnings. Matabeleland North’s major revenue earner is tourism and the province is endowed with a variety of attractive natural heritage sites and wildlife.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has predicted that 2020 will be a tougher year for the tourism industry, which for Zimbabwe is one of the major economic pillars. The sector recorded 2,6 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, a six percent increase from 2,4 million received in 2017. This calls for multifaceted measures to sustain the industry. — @ncubeleon

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Victoria Falls city fathers, residents face off

A Vic Falls forest along Kazungula Border Post Road which has been targeted by residents for indiscriminate cutting down of trees

VICTORIA Falls authorities and residents have faced off over the increased rate of deforestation in the resort town as residents invade surrounding forests including game parks in search of firewood during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The lockdown is into its third month and many companies in the resort town are closed as they rely on tourism which has been hit by the banning of international flights.

Residents, most of whom are employed in the tourism sector, are no longer receiving salaries and the cost of electricity and gas has gone out of reach, forcing them to turn to firewood.

This has riled the city fathers, prompting ward 8 councillor Goshen Zhou to issue a warning to residents.

"I am equally worried about people cutting big trees along the buffer zone between Kazungula Road and other areas. ZimParks, police and council will punish those doing this. Let us guard our vegetation jealously. We are the face of Zimbabwe. Heavy penalties are on the way (so) stay away from destroying the future of our children," Zhou said.

"There is need to sensitise residents and warn them that heavy fines will be charged to those that poach for firewood."

However, a resident, Mbongeni Sibanda said wood poaching had become rampant because of economic hardships exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdown because most people in the resort town were out of work.

"Times are hard; there is no money to buy electricity and people can't afford gas. Can authorities come up with better and more affordable ways to help these people? It's not that they want to do that, some fetch firewood for sale because they are sleeping without food. For instance, we have elephants that have killed people and we all know that ZimParks and other local authorities are benefiting from wildlife by having animals slaughtered for their staff 's consumption, surely as city fathers, a request can be made for a number of elephants and buffaloes to be killed and given to people to ease these hardships" Sibanda said.

Oliver Gumbo urged ZimParks to designate days when residents would be allowed into the parks to harvest drywood to avoid clashing with rangers.

"This way the people will also feel part of the conservation of wildlife and forests. Right now they get arrested for wood gathering (‘I don't want to use the word poacher here I think it's exaggerated) and they see you council and ZimParks officials bringing loads of wood for yourselves. If you go to ZimParks residential area you will find piles of wood there, and drying meat on lines. Please, let's find ways for our brothers and sisters to survive and stop labelling them poachers, that was a Rhodesian mentality," Gumbo said. Victoria Falls sits in between Chamabondo and Victoria Falls game parks which are now threatened by illegal tree logging.

Source: Victoria Falls city fathers, residents face off (23/06/20)

Monday 22 June 2020

Vic Falls Residents Invade National Park For Firewood

CONCERNS have been raised over massive cutting down of trees at the Victoria Falls National Park for firewood by residents who have been rendered jobless due to Covid-19 and can no longer afford monthly electricity bills.
Many have resorted to using power for lighting and powering household electrical gadgets only while using gas, firewood, and charcoal for cooking.
However, the high cost of cooking gas has seen a lot of residents opting for firewood and charcoal instead.
Gas is pegged at between US$1,10 and US$2 per kg.
A 5kg packet of charcoal costs US$1.
Residents of new ZB houses in the Bafour Zone are yet to be connected to the electricity grid and use solar systems for lighting.
With winter upon the usually hot resort town, residents have invaded the national park where they are not only cutting dry wood but felling down big trees and threatening the town’s pristine world heritage state.
Anti-poaching teams, including rangers and Victoria Falls Municipal police last Friday and Saturday responded by raiding some of the firewood poachers who, however, fled leaving behind their axes.
Because of fear of wild animals, poachers cut trees closer to the Victoria Falls-Kazungula highway oblivious of the way they are destroying the vegetation that draws tourists for on the road game drives.
Local Ward 11 councillor Edmore Zhou Saturday warned residents found poaching that they will be severely punished.
“We are worried about people cutting down trees on the Bafour Zone along Kazungula road. Zimparks, police and council will soon punish poachers,” said Zhou.
“We have to guard our vegetation as we are the face of Zimbabwe. Heavy penalties are on the way so stay away from destroying our trees.”
However, he courted the ire of residents who said before punishing them, authorities should find ways of addressing widespread hunger in the town.
The residents complained of not benefiting from natural resources around them with only authorities sharing profits among themselves.
They cited a recent incident in which rangers killed and skinned a problem elephant and shared the meat at night without any resident benefiting.
“We are not saying wood poaching is good but we have to address the cause. People are suffering hence something must be down,” a resident said.
Some suggested that Zimparks and the Forestry Commission allow residents to enter the forest once a week to harvest dry wood under supervision.

Sunday 21 June 2020

Chief Mukuni claims abuse of office by Zesco in relation to potential tourism development

I SMELL high level corruption and abuse of authority of office by Zesco managing director Victor Mundende, says chief Mukuni.
Commenting on the sale of land at Victoria Falls Power Station to a Chinese company operating as Victoria Falls Eye Limited, Mukuni said the land in question was part of a legal suit which was before the courts of law.
“What baffles me is that according to PACRA records the owners of Victoria Falls Eye is a company known as Qindao Ruichan Tech Industry Company Limited which has 90 per cent shares and the Ministry of Tourism and Arts of the Republic of Zambia – whatever that means (laughs) – has 10. This is a circus. The directors under Victoria Falls Eye include a Mr Reuben Zulu and Ju Weinbin,” he said. “What is also shocking is that Zesco who are the owners of the land (Lot 437/M) gave a consent to a buyer to survey the land and subdivide it. What I know is that surveys and subdivision of land is supposed to be done by the owner in this case Zesco and not the buyer (Victoria Falls Eye). What guarantee do we have that the man will not get land not given to him if he is the one surveying and subdividing? Strangely the consent is given by Zesco managing director Victor Mundende. This makes me smell high levels of corruption and abuse of authority as the land in question is government land under the Ministry of Energy.”
He demanded the immediate withdrawal of the offer of Lot 437/M to the Chinese.
Mukuni also raised concern that the government could also give consent to the demolishing of a church.
“Zesco denied the said land to another investor who wanted to put up a balloon and the matter as far as I am concerned is before the courts of law. And strangely a Catholic Church is to be demolished. Where is our religious morality as a nation if government can sell land and give consent to demolish a church? I appeal to government to reverse the offer,” he said.
Mukuni added that Zambia also risks a diplomatic wrangle with Zimbabwe as UNESCO can deregister the Victoria Falls from the World Heritage Site list.
In January 2017, Mukuni fought off attempts by State House to offer Ju Wenbin the curio market at the Victoria Falls to erect a Spin-Sational Ferris Wheel.
The National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) has also warned that the said land being within the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (VFWHS) cannot have a construction of the proposed wheel under UNESCO guidelines.
According to correspondences obtained by The Mast, Mundende on April 15 wrote to Victoria Falls Eye Limited’s lawyers Mosha and Company giving a go-ahead to the firm’s request to survey the land (Lot 473/M) at the Victoria Falls Power Station for subdivision.
The letter, ZESCO REF:MD 298/2020, addressed to Philip Chibundi states the power utility was in consent with Victoria Falls Eye’s request to survey the land.
“Please be advised that we have no objection to your undertaking the survey on the aforementioned portion of our property,” said Mundende.
An NHCC source warned that Zambia risks having the Victoria Falls placed under ‘endangered’ sites list if the wheel will be given a go-ahead.
“A shopping mall may be ideal but it’s like these guys are just interested in the wheel going by the name of the company Victoria Falls Eye,” the source said.
Zesco in an eviction notice dated April 29, demanded people leave the area so as to have the properties demolished as they were in a national park against the Wildlife Act Number 14 of 2015.
The notice signed by Zesco’s director of legal services McRobby Chiwela was copied to Mundende, director power generation, director human resources and the two labour unions namely POGAWUZ and MESAWU.
“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 stated
He added that the lease agreement allowing tenants to occupy the said houses had also expired adding that the three months’ notice was a ‘humanitarian’ gesture.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Tourism players struggle to pay workers

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
WITH no revenue coming in, tourism operators in Victoria Falls are taking further drastic measures to stay afloat including terminating contracts for remaining workers.
There has been a series of layoffs and cuts to salaries, including migration from paying workers in foreign currency to the local currency, as the sector weighs options to survive.
Both small and established players have continued to reduce workforce in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, whose cumulative cases have reached 8 142 820 and killed 439 768 globally as of yesterday, resulting in indefinite closure of the tourism industry. Some players had sent workers on indefinite leave with skeletal staff such as front desk, security and maintenance remaining on site to handle cancellations, postponements and maintenance work.
While company executives were not keen to be interviewed, investigations by Business Chronicle showed that the companies are struggling to sustain staff salaries with no revenues coming in. Some companies including hotels and tour operators have reportedly terminated contracts of around to 200 workers each. Sector players are appealing to Government to urgently intervene by opening up domestic tourism or quickly avail the promised packages to save jobs and companies from collapse.
Internal sources from various companies confirmed that more workers had been laid off since the start of the month as employers struggle to keep a huge workforce without revenue inflows. In an interview, a tourism trade unionist Mr Edward Dzapasi said: “People are now suffering as some have been without salary for two months. Even those who remained at work many of them are no longer getting full salary. We appeal to Government to intervene as a matter of urgency and protect workers. They should open domestic tourism but at the same time adjust prices and rates so that people can afford.”
He said the Covid-19 situation should be a wake-up call for the industry to come up with measures like strengthening labour laws or setting up a fund whose aim will be to cater for workers during times of distress.
Government is currently working on a strategic post-Covid-19 tourism recovery plan to reopen the industry for domestic clients as a way of ensuring that the sector gets some revenue. Last month Government pledged a bank guarantee facility worth ZWL$500 million to assist the tourism sector to access working capital loans from banks so as to boost the industry post Covid-19.
The stimulus package also includes a Tourism Revolving Fund with an initial injection of a seed capital of ZWL$20 million, waiver of Value Added Tax on domestic tourism, deferment of liquidation of foreign currency paid by international clients, support for Zimbabwe Tourism.
Authority and payment of money owed to tourism operators by various Government institutions. The tourism industry welcomed the packages as a relief.
The local tourism industry employs more than 40 000 workers and contributes 1,4 percent to national employment, according to the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ).
HAZ Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Anald Musonza said the pandemic has created huge challenges for business especially in Victoria Falls where tourism is the mainstay.
“This has caused a lot of distress for companies and employees. Our hope is on Government’s intention to open domestic tourism to help revive our industry and hopefully revenues start trickling in and help retain some workers. The cashflow has run out and we hope the Government tax break and all packages will be quickly accessed to remain viable,” he said.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that globally over 25 million jobs will be lost due to the coronavirus, with 2020 projected to be a very difficult year for the tourism business.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) acting chief executive, Mr Givemore Chidzidzi has said saving jobs along the tourism value chain is at the heart of the tourism recovery plan.