Save Victoria Falls from over-development - click to visit site -

Sunday 30 August 2020

Two Vic Falls Soccer Players Drown In Zambezi River – Bodies Missing

 VICTORIA FALLS: A swimming expedition ended in tragedy Thursday afternoon after two youthful soccer players here drowned in the Zambezi River and their bodies yet to be recovered.

Police have confirmed the incident.

The incident happened at gorge number six, a distance away downstream from Victoria Falls Hotel’s gorge number four, where several bodies have been retrieved in separate drowning incidents that have occurred over the years.

The bodies of Elson Mathe (24) and Thamsanga Ncube (22) had not been located by Friday evening as police waited for a sub-aqua team from Bulawayo.

The two rising soccer players were attached to Victoria Falls’ Division One side Mosi Rovers. Ncube was loaned to Chicken Inn and then ZPC Hwange last season.

While waiting for the police sub-aqua unit, rafting kayakas had sailed down the river checking for the bodies but found none.

Police had also earlier used a helicopter from a local helipad company to search for the players’ bodies from an aerial view but the search yielded nothing, and the mission expected to continue Saturday morning.

Police said the deceased and their two friends, Lucas Sibanda and Brian Dlamini had gone swimming when tragedy hit.

“Two people are feared to have drowned after they disappeared in water while swimming on the Zambezi River. On 27 August around 2 pm, the victims together with Lucas Sibanda and Brian Dlamini went to Zambezi River gorge number 6 to swim. Around 3.40 pm while they were swimming, a huge wave of water approached and they failed to swim out,” the police said in a statement.

Seeing that their friends had drowned, Sibanda and Dlamini rushed home to inform the deceased’s parents who reported the matter to the police.

The police said the Bulawayo sub-aqua team was expected Saturday to join the rafters on the search mission.

However, because of the nature of the turbulent water in the gorges, the bodies may not be visible until between three and five days. The search party could also be forced to wait for the period until the bodies decompose and release gases for them to float, according to experts.

This is not the first drowning on the Zambezi River although residents continue to go to the place for church vigils and leisure in the resort town.

The Zambezi River is the fourth largest in Africa, the longest east-flowing in the continent and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The river’s most noted feature is Victoria Falls.

Source: Two Vic Falls Soccer Players Drown In Zambezi River – Bodies Missing (29/08/20)

Friday 21 August 2020

Victoria Falls helps itself with 100,000 free children's meals

Yesterday the Victoria Falls Children's Feeding Programme, established to provide regular free meals to school-age children across the town, reached a landmark of 100,000 meals served since it started in mid-July.

Service time at one of the seven community kitchens.

It has been estimated that more than three quarters of workers in Victoria Falls have been unemployed since the implementation of the international tourism close-down at the end of March. A significant portion of those retained by the industry are on reduced hours and pay.

The programme is the result of huge efforts on the ground as businesses and communities have joined forces to establish and then scale up this huge operation. Hotels and lodges have donated perishables including vegetables and salads from their kitchen gardens, national and regional companies and businesses donated other food supplies, allowing provision of nutritiously balanced meals. Local restaurants have enrolled their staff to help prepare ingredients and tourism operators have provided supporting storage and transport logistics.

Service time at one of the seven community kitchens.

Grateful thanks to the amazing individuals making all this happen on the ground, including Russell Manenji, Executive Chef at Shearwater Explorers Village (external link, opens in a new window), who leads the programme and the daily organisation of the kitchens, menus and food preparation (together with support from Chef Ngamani of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Boma), Gail van Jaarsveldt, Dani Connolly and Christie Brookstein from the Jafuta Foundation (external link) and the whole of the Pastor’s group who have worked tirelessly to set up the programme.

Gail van Jaarsveldt of the Jafuta Foundation is leading fundraising efforts to support this much needed programme: "We are appealing for those of you that can, wherever you are, to please join hands with us so that the community food kitchens can continue for as long as they are needed. As a result of all the amazing local food donations it only costs 25c to provide each meal. The kitchens are now serving well over 4,000 children every day - meaning we need to find over $1,000 each day to keep this incredible project running!"

For more information -

Follow on Facebook - Victoria Falls Good Causes

Donate: JustGiving

Further Information

The Pastors Counselling and Community Support Group has been central to the introduction of this programme. This group is made up of representatives from the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa (UDACIZA), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), and Victoria Falls Ministers Fraternity among others and is open to all Christian affiliations.

Utilising seven churches and school locations across Chinotimba and Mkhosana, the Children’s Feeding Programme, organised by the Pastoral Counselling and Community Support Group and the Victoria Falls Covid-19 Taskforce, aims to supply one meal per day, Monday to Friday for school-age children in the region. It is estimated that there are approximately 8,000 children enrolled in different schools across Victoria Falls.

The Victoria Falls Covid-19 TaskForce was established by Government, local Council and Municipality departments, tourism stakeholders, community groups and concerned residents to develop a coordinated response and preparedness strategy in the face of the global pandemic and collapse of tourism in Victoria Falls.

The TaskForce Food Security Group, together with the support of local tourism operators, community groups, charitable foundations and concerned individuals have launched fundraising appeals and targeted the delivery of its support through several key area initiatives and programmes.

Launched on 14th July, the first day of the Children's Feeding Programme opened with two community kitchens serving over 400 children, and one week later all seven community kitchens were operational, with a total of 14,314 meals served over the first 7 days of the programme. By the second week of the Programme over 4,000 meals were being served each day.


Vegetables beat Covid-19

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

WHILE the Covid-19 may have left citizens devastated by loss of business and jobs, others have used the opportunity to start gardening projects to improve their families’ livelihoods.

A random check around Chinotimba and Mkhosana high density suburbs in Victoria Falls showed that almost every household now has a booming vegetable garden.

Over the years, Victoria Falls residents would rely on buying vegetables from Zambian vendors popularly known as omzanga who would cross the border daily using temporary passes to sell goods including vegetables, tomatoes, green mealies, sweet potatoes and second hand clothes.

Some vegetables also came from as far as Lupane and Umguza districts as well as Bulawayo, Chegutu, Harare and Gokwe.

Because of the distance, vegetables were expensive in Victoria Falls where a bundle that is generally worth US$1 in Bulawayo was sold for between US$3 and US$5 in Victoria Falls.

Kalahari soils which make farming less viable and borehole drilling unthinkable also contributed to less people doing gardening as there are no community boreholes like in other towns.

People would afford to buy vegetables from shops and vendors and not worry about growing their own because they had disposable income from the tourism industry.

However, the outbreak of Covid-19 changed lifestyles as many have been left jobless.

While some have resorted to complaining about life becoming tougher or others resorting to flouting lockdown regulations by frequenting drinking spots such as shebeens, others have become industrious and started viable horticulture businesses that have literally turned Victoria Falls green.

Mr Herbert Masunda of Chinotimba, who was employed by African Sun, said gardening has become his family’s source of income.

“I have been doing gardening as hobby for many years but now because of lockdown I have realised that it’s actually a source of livelihood. I have more time to work in the garden because I have nothing else to do and this has improved our livelihoods because we now have enough vegetable supply for consumption. We also sell some and use the money to buy mealie meal and other basics,” he said.

Mr Masunda said he can make US$5 per week.

“There are few customers these days because of the situation as almost everyone is growing vegetables in their backyards,” he said.

Mrs Sikhangeziwe Nyathi of Mkhosana said she makes US$5 per day from her garden.

She is one of dozens residents who established gardens at an open space near Smart Corner.

“I have been doing gardening since 2009 but this time I have plenty vegetables compared to other years. This is because I have nothing else to do since I am not going to work because of the lockdown and have dedicated all the time to gardening.

“On a good day I can get US$5 and we are able to buy mealie meal, meat and other basics from that. Generally, almost everyone now has a garden and some come here to get suckers and seedlings for their gardens. So, we are now drying most of the vegetables because you may not know what the future holds, we may run out of water and need these dried vegetables in future,” she said.

Some have started community gardens here and they work as groups.

Ms Loveness Nyoni, coordinator of Energy Star Smart Garden which was established by 20 members on 18 May in Mkhosana said: “This has become a source of income. We are members of Women’s Voice

Housing Cooperative Society Limited and people had stopped paying subscriptions because of the situation, but since we started the garden, we have resumed paying using money from sale of vegetables.”

The 20 members fetch water from Ms Nyoni’s nearby house for the garden and share the water bill.

The taskforce on Covid-19 has also capacitated residents and villagers outside Victoria Falls with seedlings to start gardening projects.

Pastor Stanfordias Ndlovu who heads the pastors’ wing of the taskforce said the idea is to mitigate against effects of Covid-19 and make sure families have food.

“Many are now selling to the feeding scheme hence they have stable source of income for the time being,” he said.-@ncubeleon

Source: Vegetables beat Covid-19  (20/08/20)

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Major investment boost for Victoria Falls

 The Government is planning to establish a special purpose vehicle (SPV), the Mosi Oa Tunya Development Company (Mosi), to increase investments into the country’s premier tourist destination – Victoria Falls.

This comes as the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) has also started the process to establish the Victoria Falls Exchange (VFEX), as the Government doubles efforts to attract foreign investment into the country.

According to the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy (2020 – 2025), the SPV will be housed under the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.

“Mosi Oa Tunya Development Company (Mosi) is a special purpose vehicle under the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry. It is a public investment vehicle for the Government in the development of tourism in Victoria Falls,” reads part of the strategy document.

“The company will spearhead tourism infrastructure development in Masuwe Estate in Victoria Falls in partnership with relevant Government ministries and agencies and private sector partnership.

“Work is underway to develop a comprehensive area development plan for Victoria Falls to unlock investment potential in the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone.”

The Government has also announced plans to turn Victoria Falls into an international finance centre.

And plans are afoot to set up the country’s first US dollar denominated bourse in the resort town – VFEX.

The ZSE has already set the ball rolling after inviting stakeholders interested in participating on the planned bourse to submit applications for expressions of interest.

The VFEX, a wholly owned subsidiary of the ZSE, is currently awaiting licencing by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (SECZ), the regulator of all securities trading in the country.

Eligible stakeholders included security dealing firms licensed by SECZ as well as securities dealers, accounting companies, banks, legal practitioners and investment advisors.

The invitation by ZSE also entails securities transfer and investment management firms licensed by the SECZ willing to offer services on VFEX.

Zimbabwe recently gazetted regulations that provide the legal basis for the establishment and operation of the VFEX.

Finance Minister and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said the global securities exchange, VFEX, will seek partnerships with other global exchanges and partners around the world to become a truly global platform.

Statutory Instrument (SI) 196 of 2020, Exchange Control (Special Provisions for Securities Listed on Victoria Falls Stock Exchange) Regulations, 2020, is the legal instrument that provides for the establishment of VFEX.

Securities listed on the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange shall be tradable and settled solely in US dollars or alternatively any other convertible currency.

A company resident in Zimbabwe or listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange may list on VFEX not more than 20 percent of its capital at any time on the ZSE.

Similarly,  a company that is Zimbabwean resident, but not listed on ZSE can list on VFEX if the capital raised by the company on the exchange is from an offshore source or from free funds.

Additionally, such entity be required to reinvest at least 20 percent of the capital in Zimbabwe no later than five years from the date such funds are raised.

Further, provided that any capital raised on the planned securities exchange is obtained from an offshore source or from free funds, a company that is not resident in Zimbabwe may list on the VFEX.

Non-resident companies may also list on VFEX if they de-listed from the ZSE five years preceding its listing on the new market and if they will reinvest or employ in Zimbabwe 20 percent of the capital raised on VFEX no later than five years from the date the capital was raised.

Zimbabwe has suffered from foreign-currency shortages for years, which have hammered its economy. Gross domestic product contracted 8,3 percent last year and will slump another 7,4 percent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The flow of FDI through the VFEX, which will diffuse some of the perceived risk in the mainland stock market, may help drive the process of rebuilding the battered economy, which has suffered a combination of poor policies in the past and the devastating impact of Western sanctions.

Last year, Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals registered an 11 percent decline from 2 579 974 to 2 294 259 and tourism receipts also declined from US$1,386 billion to US$1,247 billion over the same period.

However, the revival strategy, that also recognises the role of domestic tourism, is likely to see figures rising.

Source: Major investment boost for Victoria Falls (19/08/20)

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Hwange villagers fume after Govt evicts them to make way for new township

 HWANGE villagers have reacted angrily at Government`s decision to evict them from their communal area to make way for the establishment of Batoka Township.

The announcement was made through Statutory Instrument 188 of 2020 which was gazetted on Monday.

The development is reportedly going to affect over 100 homesteads in Jembwe, Jabula, Kasikili and Kanywambizi communal lands.

People occupying land in the area intended for the development have been ordered to vacate by the end of this year.

“The Minister of Local Government and Public Works, in terms of section 10 of the Communal Land Act [chapter 20:04], hereby makes the following notice: This notice may be cited as the Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Batoka Township) Notice, 2020. The area of land specified in the Schedule shall be set aside with effect from 1st of January 2021, for purposes of establishing a township. Any person using or occupying the land specified in the Schedule, otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05], is ordered to depart permanently, with all his or her property, from the said land by 31st of December 2020, unless he or she acquires rights of use or occupation to the said land in terms of section 9 (1) of the Communal Land Act,” read part of the SI.

Villagers who spoke to CITE said they were shocked to learn of the development and there was no mention of compensation.

They accused authorities of making decisions without consulting them arguing that the development though it was economically beneficial would be prejudicial to their livelihoods

“We are still in shock over what we are hearing that they intend to evict us from our ancestral land our crime being that we are in the way of the so-called development. How can one wake up and decide to remove people without considering the impact on their livelihoods. We hear they won’t be compensation for those that are going to be affected. The government should ensure that it puts in place measures that protect its people as compared to placing money ahead, ” said David Ncube from Jebwe. 

Kachechete ward Councilor, Givemoreagain Moyo under which Jebwe village falls said he was yet to go through the SI.

“It’s news to me I haven’t gone through the document but from the reactions of the affected people they are shocked at the notice. With the advent of social media, word travels fast and the reactions so far show people are devastated by the news. Communities need to be informed, they need to be consulted surely you can’t wake up and evict people. Council has a role to inform stakeholders. At the moment I don’t know who or how many are going to be affected by the displacement,” said Clr Moyo.

Cllr Sino Moyo of Jambezi ward whose area is also affected by the move said it was not yet clear where the Kanywambizi villagers would be relocated to as only one meeting with the community was held.

“It’s not yet clear as to where the affected will be moved to since there was only one meeting in fact people have not been addressed and unaware of the modalities associated with relocation and compensation. Last year people were told of the development of the project but not much was said about the impending displacement or compensation. Villagers are not happy with the development some developed infrastructure and being told to just leave is unfair. Most of these people are old and cannot afford to build afresh especially given the state of our economy, ” he said.

Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) criticised the move describing it as a violation of the rights of Batoka territory people. 

“We believe that indigenous people have rights over their ancestral lands and it is a violation of their rights to allow the interests of capitalists to displace them. These people have preserved this land since time immemorial and they should benefit from development projects which have been attracted by their ancestral land,” CNRG Communications Officer, Simiso Mlevu. 

“As CNRG we are against Forced Relocations and displacements. History has shown that our government does not value property rights because people who were moved from Marange to Arda Transau have not been compensated to date. They do not even have land for subsistence farming.  We fear that the people of Hwange will face the same predicament of being forced to move without proper property and livelihoods valuations that should lead to adequate compensation.”

She argued that the Communal Lands Act was unconstitutional as it rendered rural communities stateless.

“The Communal Lands Act is grossly unconstitutional. Communal land is vested in the President and Local Government minister can from time to time designate new use for that land. Because of the Communal Lands Act, rural communities are stateless citizens. They have no rights to where they live. We ask, how different is this administration from colonial authorities when it comes to protecting the right of citizens?”

Efforts to get a comment from Chief Shana were fruitless, however, Hwange Rural District Council chief executive officer, Phindile Ncube said there was nothing amiss with the development.

“In any event, there is nothing new in the creation of urban land in a Communal area the issue of compensation is neither here nor there. I can assure you that the affected communities have been consulted. Yes the SI does not speak of compensation but the Environmental Impact Assessment will likely speak into the issue of compensation. Projects of national development tend to have certain impacts such as displacement. We see this with what happened during the establishment of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam we are also going to have a hydro dam here at the Zambezi gorges. “

The local authority intends to establish satellite towns in Ndlovu, Cross Mabale, 5 Miles, Monde, Cross Dete and the Batoka township.

The establishment of the Batoka township will be anchored on the construction and operation of a dam to power a 2400 MW hydropower plant that will be shared between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

 Source: Hwange villagers fume after Govt evicts them to make way for new township (18/08/20)



Monday 17 August 2020

Wheel Deal Paints a Picture

A Blot on the Landscape

Tourist development in Zambia threatens Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.

Wheel Deal Causes a Spin

A proposal to develop a tourist observation wheel overlooking the Falls on the north bank has raised serious concerns over the future status of the Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya World Heritage Site (WHS).

The development, presented by a Chinese investor, Ju Wenbin (one of China's richest men), first hit the headlines in 2017 with controversy over a proposed site selected in Livingstone town. More recently, in June this year, it became clear that the development was targeting land within the World Heritage Site itself.

Double Deals

In early November 2017 it emerged that a Chinese investor had apparently sealed an agreement with the Zambian government to develop an observation viewing wheel, described as a "Spin-Sational Ferris Wheel similar to that at Disneyland," (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 7 Nov 2017) on the north bank of the Falls.

Examples of Ferris wheels similar to the one proposed for the Victoria Falls

In a deal which surprised local traders and tourism representatives, the project was given the use of a plot of land in the centre of town, part of the Mukuni Park and currently occupied by independent Mukuni curio traders. Government sources confirmed to journalists that the investor had been given permission to remove traders from the site to pave way for construction works.

“We have been instructed to give land at the Victoria Falls by the government. The instructions were sent to the Ministry of Tourism from State House. The named Chinese investor (Ju Wenbin) the CEO of China-Africa Cotton Development Limited was even taken on a conducted tour of the Falls accompanied by some directors in the Ministry of Tourism recently, the source said

The source added that the Department of Wildlife and Zambia Environmental Management Agency had not been involved in the land allocation which would have required an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in normal circumstances.

“'We informed the government about the dangers of this development with UNESCO, but it seems the PF leadership is in a compromised situation,' the source added." (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 4 Nov 2017)

In recent years Zambia has repeatedly supported tourism development proposals which UNESCO have identified as unsuitable and incompatible with the World Heritage Site status of the Falls, including repeated proposals for a tethered observation balloon, a cable-car facility into the gorge below the Falls and a new hotel development adjoining the site.

In 2012 UNESCO had reiterated its position that any tethered balloons close to the property will adversely impact its visual integrity, and urged the States Parties not to authorise any tethered balloon or other tall structures which would be visible on the skyline within the vicinity of the Falls. (UNESCO, 2012 - Decisions 36 COM 7B.7, Paragraph 6). 

The development of the curio traders site in Livingstone Town appears, however, to have been a distraction from main target for the developers - a site overlooking the Eastern Cataract and within the National Park and World Heritage Site 

In 2017 UNESCO recorded 

"Noting with significant concern that construction of a Ferris wheel is proposed within a high ecologically sensitive zone of the Eastern Cataract inside the property, which would be incompatible with the permitted infrastructural development as prescribed in the JIMP, and which will likely have a significant detrimental impact on the OUV of the property, urges the State Parties to not permit the project." (UNESCO, 2017 - Decisions 41 COM 7B.22, Paragraph 5)

Representatives of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management were quoted a threatening ‘tourism war’ over the plans, which they felt clearly breached UNESCO World Heritage Site development guidelines (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 4 Nov 2017).

“Our superiors in Harare have said they will not sit idle and see the Victoria Falls getting de-registered as a WHS. They have informed us that we need to be ready for ‘war’ against Zambia, it’s going to be a tough tourism war and Zambia is bound to lose,” the wildlife official said.

He said Zimbabwe was not ready to lose the Victoria Falls heritage status due to Chinese developments which would be against UNESCO regulations." (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 7 Nov 2017)

Local representations, led by Chief Mukuni, successfully campaigned against the sale of the land occupied by Mukuni curio traders.

Threat to World Heritage Site Status

In June 2020 it emerged that a new deal had been done to secure land within the ZESCO hydroelectric facilities on the north bank of the Falls - and within the World Heritage Site.

In April ZESCO authorised the surveying of a section of land (identified as Lot 473/M) by agents for Victoria Falls Eye Ltd within the ZECSO concession above the Eastern Cataract, part of the supporting infrastructure for the Victoria Falls Hydro-electric power facility.

An aerial view of the Victoria Falls, with the ZESCO facilities shown bottom left

Correspondence from Livingstone town clerk, Getrude Chilufya Chibiliti, dated 29 April, informed the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) in that the council had been requested by the Ministry of Tourism and Arts through its tourism development officer based in Livingstone to give consent for the subdivision of Lot 473/M.

“An investor, Victoria Falls Eye Limited, has shown interest in constructing the Ferris Wheel on the subdivided portion of land. In view of the above, council wishes to engage your organisation as a stakeholder of the site and request a consent letter in order to proceed with the proposed subdivision,” Chibiliti requested.

"NHCC, in letters to Ju Wenbin and the council dated April 27 and 29 respectively did not object to the subdivision of the land but indicated:

“Take note that the area…falls within the Musi-oa-Tunya National Park/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. In this regard, all activities and planned tourism facilities must conform to, or be compatible with the UNESCO World Heritage Convention Rules and Regulations governing the area.” (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 17 June 2020)

The plot of land includes employee housing, a church, bus station and market, with ZESCO issuing three-month eviction notices to about 22 employees at the end of April.

"Zesco in an eviction notice dated April 29 demanded that 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." (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 17 June 2020)

Chief Mukuni again raised concerns over the deal

“I saw the eviction notice and later discovered that a church and a bus station are also to be demolished. If this act to demolish Sacred Heart Catholic Church is not demonic, then what is? The whole programme is a government plan and Zesco is being used as a smokescreen because no one can say no to what State House says. They are giving in to a Chinese, disregarding Zambians. We have a market and a bus station in the area and these are so to be demolished…I wonder what UNESCO will do to us if they find out that the Victoria Falls is yet again under threat,” he said.

“UNESCO can de-register the site from the World Heritage list and this can cause some huge diplomatic problems between us and Zimbabwe...”

“The other thing is that government through Zesco did stop a Hungarian national from setting up a balloon project for aerial viewing of the falls and the man now intends to take legal action against Zesco,” said Mukuni." (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 6 June 2020).

UNESCO have yet to comment publicly on the new proposal.

ZimParks arrests 629 poachers

 THE Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) has recorded 842 poacher incursions into the country for the first half of this year, with 629 poachers having been arrested, the Daily News on Sunday reports.

ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo, pictured, said out of the 629 arrests, there were 13 cases of armed conflict that resulted in three deaths.

 “From these cases, we managed to recover 10 riffles, 110 rounds of ammunition, 39 pieces of ivory and 17 rhino horns. The reason why we have been able to intensify our efforts and be successful is that we now have improved technology.

“We have been using technology, including drones, to monitor activities in our national parks and we have been able to detect poachers encroaching into the parks and respond swiftly,” Farawo said.


He added that collaborative work with other countries had also assisted in the fight against poaching.

“We have been working with other countries to combat poaching because most of the country’s wildlife parks are near borders. So, we have transfrontier conservation areas, including the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park and the Chimanimani Transfrontier Conservation Area. Collaborative efforts have assisted us fight poaching,” he said.

“We have also been working with local communities and increased communal awareness on the dangers of poaching.”

Farawo recently said 50 people had died after being attacked by wild animals across the country in the first seven months of the year, while several others were injured as cases of human-wildlife conflict continue to increase.

 “So far, 50 people have died as a result of human and wildlife conflict. They were attacked by animals including hyenas, lions, crocodiles, buffalos and elephants. The elephants accounted for 50 percent of the deaths.

“In addition, 40 people have been injured and some of them sustained serious injuries to the extent that they can no longer provide for their families.

“The increase in human and wildlife conflict is a result of overpopulation where we have more wild animals encroaching human settlements sometimes in search of food and water,” Farawo said.

He added that there was an urgent need for a depopulation exercise in order to reduce the number of people succumbing to human and wildlife conflict.

“The number of wild animals is increasing while the number of people is also increasing.’’

Source: ZimParks arrests 629 poachers (16/08/20)

Friday 14 August 2020

Zimbabwe looks to expand development at Victoria Falls

[From a longer original article - see link at end for full text]

Victoria Falls and tourism recovery

As part of his hectic programme last week, President Mnangagwa was in Victoria Falls where he launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, which was approved by Cabinet recently.

The strategy will encourage investment in the tourism sector, making Zimbabwe a favourite destination among tourists, thus achieving the envisaged US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025.

The focus on Victoria Falls and the activities carried out by the President there clearly indicate the new approach meant to rebrand the tourism resort through the attraction of investors.

This will be greatly supported by the tourism recovery strategy, that will not only work to revive Victoria Falls following the outbreak of Covid-19, but help the entire sector.

Victoria Falls has been designated as a financial hub special economic zone, where investors in the financial sector are expected to sat base.

This will be supported by the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange whose operating modalities were gazetted recently through Statutory Instrument 196 of 2020.

Another milestone with regards to Victoria Falls is the adoption by Cabinet of a report on the operations of Mosi-Oa-Tunya Development Company, an investment vehicle for Government in the development of tourism facilities in the resort town.

The company is already working with a private sector concern to conduct feasibility studies for the proposed Victoria Falls Integrated Tourism Park in Masuwe Estate.

This project will result in the building of hotels, shopping malls, a medical facility, a convention centre and an upmarket golf course.

This clearly shows that Victoria Falls is no longer about tourism alone, but is set to play an important role in the development trajectory of the country.

The transformation taking place in the town is massive, and will have ripple, positive effects on the economy.

The financial hub special economic zone status for the resort town will result in investors bringing in capital and new technologies into the country that will enhance industrialisation and modernisation.

Apart from that, President Mnangagwa's promotion of tourism is out of the realisation that the sector is a low hanging fruit that can contribute to a quick economic turnaround.

While in Victoria Falls, President Mnangagwa officially re-opened the Victoria Falls Rainforest that had been closed due to Covid-19, with the move signifying that the country is ready to welcome tourists once more.

But all this cannot be easily achieved without players in the tourism industry being innovative and adaptive to new and efficient ways of doing business.

The tourism industry is crying out for new products and services that can compete with any other in the world to ensure that tourists always put Zimbabwe on their itinerary.

Source: Development Trajectory Points to Bright Future (13/08/20)

Wednesday 12 August 2020

New Hotel Development Threatens Livingstone's Elephants

(12th August 2020)

A controversial new hotel development is underway on a riverside site which is located within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, a short distance above Victoria Falls. The site adjoins the Maramba River, marking the border of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A computer generated visualisation of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort development

A similar development, proposed in 2006 by Legacy Group Holdings for the same plot of land, raised serious concerns over the listing of the Falls as a World Heritage Site, resulting in UNESCO insisting on a moratorium being imposed on all developments in and surrounding the site.

The development was eventually ruled as being unsuitable within the National Park, and especially for a site designated as a wildlife corridor - important for allowing the free movement of local elephant herds to and from the river and minimising potential human-elephant conflict.

This new development appears to be going ahead on this site despite all these concerns.

'A Done Deal'

A scoping meeting for the development was held in Livingstone on 26th October 2018 where the plan presented to residents and stakeholders was to develop 80 hectares in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park at the confluence of the Maramba and Zambezi Rivers by putting up a 18-hole golf course, 2 hotels, conference centre and supporting facilities. 

The plans for the ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort’ included two three-floor hotel complexes (to accommodate 300 visitors and also including staff accommodation blocks), three swimming pools, a 600-seater conference centre, 450 chalets, 18-hole golf course, two river jetties and a slipway on the site.

 A satellite image of the area which has been modified to show the development site 
and proposed original development, including golf course.

The development is proposed by Mosi-oa-Tunya Resorts Holdings who have appointed Mukuba Property Development Company Limited to develop the proposed project site. The project is funded by the Zambian National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA).

Mukuba Pensions and Properties were represented at the scoping meeting by Daniel Holmes, and NAPSA represented by Rennie Mushinge (Mr Mushinge informed the meeting that he had previously been involved in the 2006 Legacy application). It was announced that DSA Architects, from South Africa, have been appointed architects for the project. The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), a legal requirement, was being undertaken by DH Engineering Consultants from Lusaka.

Local resident Gill Staden attended the scoping meeting, a requirement of the ESIA, and recorded in the Livingstone biWeekly Newsletter (7th November 2018):

"It hadn’t been well advertised so few people pitched up for it... Both Rennie Mushinge and Daniel Holmes spoke with confidence that the development was a done deal... . I felt that the meeting was just a box to tick [exercise]" (Staden, 2018).

A public disclosure meeting was held on the 14th of March 2019 to address concerns raised at the scoping meeting and those that were received via email and social media. 

A revised proposal was presented to develop 16.85 hectares in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park at the confluence of the Maramba and Zambezi Rivers by constructing two hotels, a conference centre and supporting facilities. The planned 18-hole golf course was abandoned in favour of a golf 'chip and putt' course and bowling green covering an area of approximately 0.98 hectares. The car parking facility would have space for 452 cars.

The proposed project cost is estimated to be $149 million and the construction works will be completed over a two year period.

Private Concession Within National Park

The developers are believed to have been offered a 50-year lease to operate the site as a private tourism concession within the National Park. Mr Mushinge added that the development would include new regional facilities for wildlife officers as part of their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (Staden, 2018).

It is believed the developers are currently in advanced discussions with Radisson Hotels to operate and manage the hotel once complete. Earlier reports (and the ESIA) named Hilton Hotels as potential operators.

Map showing the World Heritage Site (thicker red line) and highlighting the location of the Maramba River development (yellow line). Note the thick green border around the core of the site - indicating the 500m 'buffer zone.' Also note the river and riverine fringe extending upstream is also included within the World Heritage Site From p.39 of the Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya 2007-2012 Joint Integrated Management Plan

Positive Spin

At the 2018 scoping meeting the developers expressed that belief that the  development would be environmentally sensitive and that it would actually improve the environment, as well as creating jobs and boosting the town's tourism economy.

The developers claimed that the wildlife value of the site would actually be improved by the planting of many trees and development of water features, and that birdlife would benefit from this. The landscaping would including the planting of more trees along the riverside fringe so that the development would not be visible from the Zambezi River (Staden, 2018).

Pushing the Limits

The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was finalised in June 2019 and presented at a public meeting in Livingstone in September 2019. [You can download the full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment here.]

Two key development constraints on the development are detailed. 

Firstly, all developments within the National Park/World Heritage Site area are required to be below the 'average tree height' so as not to visually intrude on the skyline. The summary section of the ESIA reports that the "hotel buildings are going up to 16.4m which is below the average tree height (18-20m)" (ESIA Report, page ix). However a few pages later it is stated that "The two hotels... are 16.15m high. The ecologist has confirmed that there are trees on the project site which are above 18m high. All structures on site are below tree height.(ESIA Report, page xix)

Clearly there is an element of confusion here, not just over the height of the buildings (16.15 or 16.4 m high?) but also the definition of the restriction - the requirement being below average tree height, rather than below the maximum tree height. There is no detail given in the ESIA as to the calculation of average tree height, which indicates an average tree height of 18-20m - when this is actually the maximum tree height. 

Nearly all other tourism developments along the river are situated in similar open wooded habitat and have been limited to two or three floors. This development appears to be pushing four or five floors. 

 A riverside view of the proposed Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort.

Secondly, developments along the riverine section of the National Park area are required to leave a 50m non-developed buffer strip along the river frontage to protect trees and shield development from the river. The development as currently proposed (and shown in the NAPSA promotional video) appears to extend right up to the river, with no fringing trees remaining.

As with other hotel developments along the river, they will have to protect the site from the night-time wanderings of hippo, which come out of the river to graze (and will be attracted by the managed lawns). This will involve developing and managing a barrier of some form along the river frontage, leading to further development of this supposedly protected strip.

The project descriptions also include mention of a boathouse, slipway and jetty, and pump house on the site. These do not appear to be shown in the promotional video or any of the ESIA development site plans.

The site of this development adjoins the UNESCO World Heritage Site along the Maramba River. The 2007-2012 Joint Integrated Management Plan, submitted by Zambia and Zimbabwe to UNESCO as part of the requirements of the World Heritage listing, detailed a 500m buffer zone surrounding the site. There is no mention of this restriction in the ESIA.

Unsuitable Development

During the Legacy debacle, the Zambia Environmental Agency resolved in 2007 that a the proposed development was not acceptable within the National Park.

The Legacy proposal was also ultimately rejected as the site is a designated wildlife corridor, being used by local elephant herds to access the river for drinking water, an essential part of mitigating for elephants and minimising potential human-elephant conflict. Increasing habitat fragmentation through fenced developments in the surrounding area have channelled elephant movements into this last narrow remaining zone, and they are often seen crossing the main road by tourists on their way to and from the Falls. The area is one a their favoured winter feeding grounds, the elephants particularly attracted to the winterthorn (Faidherbia albida) seed pods.

Elephants crossing the main road to the Falls near the Maramba River.

Increased Pressures

This development, along with others which have displaced elephants from their traditional feeding and home ranges, all increase the potential of fatal people-wildlife conflicts occurring in the area. These animals have less and less wild space to roam, and with other pressures such as drought are more likely to be drawn to agricultural land or urban gardens. Recent residential developments in Dambwa South, adjoining the Livingstone Sewage works, have added to these pressures, causing regular conflict between residents and elephants.

In December 2019 Sky News correspondent Alex Crawford reported on conservation efforts to track elephant movements with GPS radio collars (Sky News, 4 December 2019). The report highlighted the impact of climate change and drought in driving human-elephant conflict pressures. Whilst this may be true for longer term patterns, in the case of the Livingstone area it is human development pressures which are directly driving elephants into conflict with people. The development of a new hotel complex and golf course on this site will significantly increase these pressures.

Fatal Encounters

People-wildlife conflict, especially fatal encounters with elephants, have resulted in large numbers of deaths in recent years on both sides of the river, including the tragic death of a respected guide, Chiinga Siavwapa, on this very site in September 2019 (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 15 September 2019). A total of five people were killed in the Livingstone region in 2019 as a result of conflict with elephants (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 30 July 2020). 

A nearby hotel development, Maramba River Lodge (opened in 1995), suffered the tragic death of two tourists in an elephant attack in November 2017 (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 12 November 2017).

Elephants brought into conflict with humans are ultimately shot as problem animals.

At a public consultation held in Livingstone in September 2019, resident Claire Whitehead, said the project should be prevented.

“Let’s take action on this and make submissions. Do we want to lose this last elephant corridor in the area? Do we want to lose our elephants? Do we want yet more fenced developments inside the national park, on the border of the World Heritage Site? What effect will it have on the already stressed elephants? How many more lives will be lost?" (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 28 September 2019).

Official Launch (3rd July 2020)

President Edgar Lungu performed an unveiling and ground-breaking ceremony at the site on 3rd July 2020.

President Edgar Lungu unveils a plaque during the ground breaking ceremony of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort on Friday, July 3,2020 [Photo: State House Press Office - Zambia Facebook Page]

A NAPSA promotional video, released on the same day, shows visualisations of the development - including hotel blocks up to five storeys high and a swimming pool and open boma area fringing the river - and details the hotel as boasting "200 luxurious rooms, of which 20 are stand alone villas, a four-star standard fully equipped conference facility seating up to 500 people." 

Watch the NAPSA Promotional video for the development [Facebook, NAPSA page, 3 July 2020 - external link, opens in a new window].

Latest News - Work Begins

Development of the site has already started, with access roads developed, heavy machinery on site and land cleared of trees. Residents report that the elephants now walk up Sichango road (the tar road to the Boat Club and Waterfront) - potentially bringing them into conflict along this busy 'people corridor' - used by vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. 

On 7th August a local charity, the Conservation and Tourism Society (CATS), launched patrols to mitigate human wildlife (elephant) conflict among the people living near and around the National Park with a 24-hour elephant response team.

There are reports that National Park rangers are being deployed on a nightly basis to warn the elephants away from the site, often having to resort to firing gun shots to scare them away. Residents are reportedly using fire-crackers to deter elephants from their properties.

Sign the Online Petition to Limit the Impacts of this Development

An online petition against the development of the site has been started by Nina Siavwapa, Chiinga's widow. Chiinga was a passionate conservationist and campaigned for the protection of the elephant corridor. Whilst the development of the hotel has already started, it is not too late to influence this development. 

Save the Elephant Corridor in Livingstone, stop the development of the Radisson Hotel!


Sky News, 4 December 2019 - Elephants fitted with tracking collars as drought leads them to kill humans in Zambia - 4 December 2019

Staden, 2018 - Livingstone Bi-Weekly Newsletter, 7 November 2018. Available online (external link, opens in a new window).

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 12 November 2017 - Elephant tramples two tourists to death in Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 15 September 2019 - Elephant kills Renowned Livingstone tour guide 

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 28 September 2019 - Livingstone residents to oppose the construction of a Golf course, Hotels in the Mosi-O-Tunya National Park -

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 30 July 2020 - Elephant kills man

Further Information

Download the full Environmental and Social Impact Assessment here.

2007-2012 Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya Joint Integrated Management Plan) [pdf, opens in a new window]

Zambia/Zimbabwe Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya 2016 State of Conservation Report to UNESCO (including 2016-2021 Joint Integrated Management Plan) [pdf download]

Zambia/Zimbabwe Victoria Falls/Mosi-oa-Tunya 2017-8 State of Conservation Report to UNESCO [pdf download]

NAPSA Promotional video for the development [Facebook, NAPSA page, 3 July 2020]