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Wednesday 30 September 2020

Getting tourism sector out of dire straits


THE tourism sector in Zambia has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 shockwaves, with virtually no international tourist arrivals since March 2020.

Business in the tourism sector almost came to an abrupt halt owing to travel restrictions and subdued domestic tourism activities.

Although the country is now seeing a rise in the consumption of tourism services by the domestic market, this is not large enough to support the multitude of enterprises, especially large hotels that cater for international travellers or the luxury lodges at the higher end of the market.

The World Travel and Tourism Council has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry.

Eco-Tourism Association of Zambia (ETAZ) also projects that the pandemic could result in 7,000 jobs being lost, 168 safari lodges and camps closing, while over US$100 million would be lost from the safari industry in 2020.

Similarly, the air transport has also been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the first half of 2020, domestic and international passenger movements at Zambia’s four major airports reduced by more than one million. The four international airports are Kenneth Kaunda in Lusaka, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in Ndola, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula in Livingstone and Mfuwe in Mambwe.

However, with the easing of lockdown measures, some international airlines have resumed flights into Zambia.

Concerned about the happenings in the tourism industry, Government, in its quest to revive the sector and promote local tourism, has proposed relief measures to be implemented in the 2021 national budget.

Among the measures to be implemented is the time to pay agreement covering income tax and value added tax.

“Government has reduced corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent on income earned by hotels and lodges on accommodation and food services, suspended import duty on Safari game viewing motor vehicles, tourist buses and coaches,” Minister of Finance Bwalya Ng’andu announced during his presentation of the 2021 national budget to Parliament on Friday.

Additionally, Government has also suspended retention fees paid by tourism enterprises, registration fees for hotel managers and licence renewal fees paid by hotels and lodges.

Since March this year, hundreds of workers have been sent on forced leave by hotel owners and tour operators in Lusaka and Livingstone, citing loss of business resulting from cancelled bookings, which grounded the industry.

Visits to the Victoria Falls heritage site were equally suspended on March 28 this year to avert the spread of the novel coronavirus.

However, on May 21, President Edgar Lungu announced the reopening of the Victoria Falls to help revive the sector, with a call on players to also consider tapping into the K10 billion stimulus package to boost their businesses.

To facilitate an increase in tourist arrivals into Zambia, Government has injected over US$1 billion in the construction of four international airports.

Dr Ng’andu announced that Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport and Kenneth Kaunda International Airport would be opened next year.

Likewise, to encourage Zambians to operate in priority sectors, under a multi-facility economic zone or an industrial park, Government has proposed to reduce the investment threshold for Zambian citizens to qualify for tax incentives under the Zambia Development Agency Act number 11 of 2016 to US$100,000 from US$500,000.

Furthermore, the minister of Finance has proposed to suspend import duty on safari game viewing vehicles, tourist buses and coaches.

Livingstone Tourism Association chairperson Rodney Sikumba is optimistic that the reduced corporate income tax will help stimulate the stifled industry.

Further, the association is pleased with the proposed reduced investment threshold in the tourism sector for Zambia to qualify for tax exemption.

“Most of our budget submissions have been taken up and on tax, we seem to have made progress and we are happy about that,” Mr Sikumba said.

Similarly, ETAZ chairman Grant Cumings is thrilled with relief measures given to the tourism sector.
“The announcements are very much appreciated; these are the first meaningful tourism reliefs in many years. In the context of recovery from COVID, the reduction in corporate tax is a welcome relief in a profitable environment, but perhaps not so effective in the current environment where tourism business are generally suffering huge losses, near bankruptcies. When companies are losing money, a tax on profit is not so helpful compared to a time when companies are profitable,” explains Mr Cumings.
For some time, ETAZ members have been crying for the removal of import duties on vehicles. Therefore Mr Cumings feels the relief has come at a right time when companies are struggling to meet statutory payments to employees and Government.

“While such measures are appreciated and helpful, and will be more so in the coming years; much more meaningful help to tourism now would be stimuli, like removing or at least reducing VAT on tourism services, and introducing a meaningful marketing budget and programme to generate new interest and growth in Zambia’s tourism,” Mr Cumings said.

But, acknowledging the difficulties regarding preparations of the 2021 national budget under the current economic conditions, the Tourism Council of Zambia has extolled Government for responding favourably to their submissions in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

Council board chairperson Vincent Mupwaya applauded the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Ronald Chitotela, and his ministerial team in addressing growth constraints faced by the tourism sector.
“It is our considered belief that the announced stimulant package will encourage foreign direct investment and also free up resources for reinvestment, reduce job losses in the tourism sector and enterprise level,” Mr Mupwaya said.

With tourism being the most affected economic sector by COVID-19 shocks, the council believes the industry will only recover if the announced measures are sustained for a reasonable period to allow the sector to recover fully.

And Mr Chitotela says Government is determined to resuscitate the sector through promotion of domestic tourism.

The minister has since appealed to tourism players to start reducing tourism packages for the domestic market so that Zambians could begin to benefit from local tourism services.

Monday 28 September 2020

Tourist visits at Victoria Falls nosedive amid COVID-19 pandemic

 In 2019, about one million tourists visited the Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. Now, only a handful of locals view the Mosi oa Tunya (Smoke that Thunders), as it is locally named.

The Livingstone Tourism Association has warned that if the situation continues, the tour operators in Zambia’s tourist capital, may be forced to shut down their operations.

In 2019, the tourism industry contributed some seven percent of Zambia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and about 7.2 percent of total employment. International tourists spent some 849 million U.S. dollars, representing about 10 percent of Zambia’s total exports, according to government statistics.

Between January and June 2020, only about 14,000 tourists were recorded at the Victoria Falls by local authorities.

In an interview with Xinhua, Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) Chairperson Rodney Sikumba, painted a gloomy picture for the city.

He said although local tourists visited the city, they did not have the purchasing power needed to sustain the 257 tourism businesses. He warned that most of his members faced bankruptcy.

“We can attract the locals, but then they will find that the pricing is prohibitive,” Sikumba observed.

He said there was need to re-invent local tourism as operators had to reduce pricing to loss-making margins for them to accommodate domestic tourists.

“From the way things are, its very difficult for me an operator to reduce my pricing by 30 percent on account of trying to attract domestic tourists. That in itself, we are robbed of the very little profit we trying to make,” Sikumba said.

He, however, is hopeful that a silver lining would come once COVID-19 is defeated.

Apart from the Victoria Falls, Livingstone is also known for its colourful local crafts, which is part of the city’s prized possessions.

Most of the crafts that are sold to tourists as souvenirs are carved in Mukuni Village which is part of the Falls area.

Mukuni Crafts Association Chairperson, Joseph Sitali, described the current situation as a disaster.

He said his over 200 members are failing to make sales as locals rarely bought curios.

Sitali said his members are considering taking their business online but have no knowledge of e-commerce.

Source: Tourist visits at Victoria Falls nosedive amid COVID-19 pandemic (27/09/20)

Sunday 27 September 2020

More elephant deaths recorded in Victoria Falls

 Langton Nyakwenda recently in  Victoria Falls

TWO more elephants were found dead in Victoria Falls last Friday, bringing to 27 the number of jumbo deaths in Zimbabwe in the last two months.

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) suspects the deaths were a result of a bacteria and samples have been sent to the United Kingdom for tests.

The most affected areas are in the north-western  parts of the country where Hwange and Zambezi National Parks and forests such as Woodlands and Pandamasu are located.

ZimParks public relations manager Mr Tinashe Farawo confirmed the latest deaths in an interview with The Sunday Mail yesterday.

“We discovered the first carcass in Victoria Falls on Friday morning,” said Mr Farawo.

“Another dead elephant was discovered in the same area later that day. We are suspecting a bacterial infection and we have sent samples to the United Kingdom.

“These deaths normally happen this time of the year. During the dry season animals travel long distances in search of food and water sources. Elephants are heat sensitive so this might be stress related.”

Zimbabwe is home to over 84 000 elephants, the second largest population in the world behind Botswana. Yet the country’s national parks have a carrying capacity of just 55 000.

Said Mr Farawo:

“That’s why we are always saying we must depopulate certain areas, particularly Hwange and repopulate areas where there are lesser animals.

“We have capacity to repopulate the whole of Africa especially in countries which had elephants before but were wiped out due to various reasons like poaching.”

The first group of 11 elephants were found dead on August 28 with their tusks intact thereby ruling out poaching. The mysterious deaths had initially appeared to share some similarities with the unexplained deaths of hundreds of elephants in neighbouring Botswana in recent months.

Scientists are still to determine what killed the elephants in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana.

Both male and female elephants of all ages have died and locals have reported seeing the giant mammals staggering and going around in circles before they die.

Source: More elephant deaths recorded in Victoria Falls (26/09/20)

Saturday 26 September 2020

Leopard terrorises Victoria Falls residents

 A FEMALE leopard, roaming with a cub, has terrorised residents of Victoria Falls' low-density areas.

The agile cat has reportedly consumed five dogs in the area and also wiped out a whole pen of ducks at one home.

The attacks have caused panic among residents who have now stopped walking with their dogs which they now keep caged as well as other small pets and livestock.

Residents now fear the leopard could turn to human beings.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo could not confirm the incident.

"I have seen your inquiry, I will attend to it in the evening. At the moment, I am in the bhundu (forest)," Farawo said.

However, two concerned residents, Adrian Read and Roger Parry had to issue a warning on social media platforms to other residents.

"Residents living in the Wood Road and Courtney Selous area need to be aware. A leopard killed Darryl Tirran's dog in his garden at 196 Courtney Selous in the early hours of this morning. A large female leopard and her cub have been active in that area for a few days according to the tracks we found," they wrote.

"The dog was grabbed close to Darryl, suggesting it is not scared of people. It also killed his ducks. People in that area need to be aware and keep their dogs locked inside at night, as no doubt it will be back," they warned.

Victoria Falls residents always live in fear of wild animals which stray from the game parks.

Several people have lost their lives after being trampled by elephants in the resort town.

Victoria Falls sits in-between two game parks, Chamabondo to the east and Victoria Falls to the west.

Thursday 17 September 2020

Victoria Falls Marathon goes virtual

NATIONAL Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (Naaz) has commended organisers of the annual Victoria Falls Marathon for their decision to hold the race virtually this year, a move likely to attract more participants from around the globe.

Organisers first moved the premier event from July to December due to outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The marathon draws international participants and traditionally takes place in the first week of July, but it will now take place on December 13.

Tendai Tagara, Naaz president, said it was pleasing to note that organisers of the race have made contingency plans that will help athletes prepare for the competition.

Virtual marathons seem to have gained popularity during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Obviously we are excited as custodians of athletics that we will have the competition in December.

“Athletes can start preparing for the race and the good thing is that through virtual racing, you get to have more participants from accross the globe, which makes it fun.

“Already, we had the Old Mutual virtual marathon a couple of months back and this is now the trend worldwide. It’s also good to note that local marathon runners have embraced virtual racing,” said Tagara.

In a statement yesterday organisers of the Victoria Falls marathon said they would be bringing an exciting, but different event this year through the virtual marathon.

In a virtual marathon, athletes register and pay the requisite amount for their preferred distance then run on the set date at their own time alone and along their own chosen route.

The athletes record the finishing time and upload it on the race website and get certificates of participation which they can print out.

A virtual marathon can be held in any location one chooses and organisers of most events on the continent have gone virtual and thereby attracting larger audiences from all over the world.

This is good news for runners that have been itching for competition as they will no longer miss races since attendance is no longer determined by geographical location.

“Keep your training going and keep Sunday 13 December available as we are bringing to you an exciting virtual event. We will be ‘taking you to Vic Falls’ to run the marathon, half marathon, 10,5km relay or 7,5km fun run.

“We are working with one of the most sophisticated, interactive, virtual timing systems in the world, which offers ‘real-time’ accurate race results and tracking of your route. Whichever distance you choose, including the fun run,” read the statement from the Victoria Falls Marathon organisers.

The event will have an interactive ‘live’ tracking and distances will be timed with results provided. Prizes and giveaways are still being negotiated with the sponsors.

“You can challenge your friends, family and running clubs.” 

Source: Victoria Falls Marathon goes virtual (16/09/20)

Tuesday 15 September 2020

NRZ courts partners for building hotel in Victoria Falls

 THE National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) is courting some investors for partnership to build a hotel in Victoria Falls as it seeks to diversify its operations.

NRZ, which has been struggling to satisfy customer needs due to crippled capacity among other challenges, seeks to leverage on its other properties such as vast pieces of land dotted around the country to contribute to national economic development.

The parastatal already has a minimal presence in the tourism industry through use of rail leisure premier class coaches, museums and steam train excursions. NRZ is also into real estate business.

Lately the parastatal has been repossessing some of its pieces of land from leases who may have not been putting it to good use.

It plans to build a hotel in Victoria Falls on one of its pieces of land between the NRZ station and Kingdom Hotel and expects to announce the development partner within two weeks.

On Saturday NRZ officials had closed door meetings with the potential investor in Victoria Falls.

In an interview, NRZ acting principal property manager Ms Rachel Vandirai said the parastatal’s vision is to increase value of its vast pieces of land countrywide.

“The partners are very much interested in building the hotel as part of our programme to build infrastructure and add value to our land here in Victoria Falls. The impact of the project reflects more on accommodation and trying to help tourists stay in Victoria Falls.

“While improving tourism, as NRZ we are also interested in improving the value of our land resource. We have a huge chunk of land bank throughout the country hence we are not only targeting Victoria Falls,” she said.

Ms Vandirai could however not be drawn into disclosing who the investor is.

The Chronicle however understands that African Sun, with a chain of hotels countrywide and in the region, is the partner as the two companies are believed to be engaged in talks.

NRZ spokesperson Mr Nyasha Maravanyika said the parastatal strives to contribute to the nation’s developement through partnerships with various investors who are keen to develop Zimbabwe. “This is one commitment that NRZ is showing to ensure that we have something that is being developed on our land. NRZ is busting space barons throughout the country and we have come to Victoria Falls to see whether people are properly utilising our land,” he said.

Mr Maravanyika said NRZ also plans to build shopping malls around the country.

“NRZ has vast land and farms. We are planning on many programmes including malls and a lot of developments around tourism for national development which is why we are taking back our land from space barons who have been subletting our land without approval. We have found a prospective investor and signing of the agreement is expected in a fortnight,” said Mr Maravanyika.

Source: NRZ courts partners for building hotel (14/09/20)

Saturday 12 September 2020

Victoria Falls Municipality on waste management

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

IN an effort to encourage recycling and sustainable waste management, Victoria Falls Municipality is urging residents to separate garbage in their homes and use organic waste as compost in gardens.

The local authority has said majority of waste is biodegradable kitchen left overs that can be recycled and used at household level.

Residents mix metals and electric gadgets including batteries which increases fossil fuels that cause veld fires at the dumpsite while also causing disposal challenges for the council at the dumpsite.

Speaking during a tour of an engineered landfill under construction, Victoria Falls town clerk Mr Ronnie Dube said the local authority is investing in sustainable waste management to meet international tourism destination standards.

The low cost landfill is being constructed using Devolution Funds from Government and is modelled around the Fukuoka waste treatment model in Japan.

“We are too eager to manage our waste post-Covid-19. This period has given us time to think about how to make our town green. We asked to meet stakeholders here so they have an appreciation of the project. We are a tourism town and we saw it fit to invest Devolution Funds into the project that so we meet world destination standards. We had planned a programme of centralising refuse collection in suburbs where we would be collecting from designated points with people expected to separate waste at home,” said Mr Dube.

He said waste separation at source is cost effective.

Victoria Falls town engineer Mrs Sherinah Sibanda said awareness programmes are lined up to educate residents about waste management.

She said mixing waste material is costly for council and makes management difficult yet residents can improve livelihoods through recycling.

“We had planned an awareness programme but we had to start by doing the landfill after getting $3,5 million Devolution Funds. Waste differs from town to town and suburb to suburb. We will need to characterise our waste and teach people to start separating at source. We may find no need for big bins at home but simply use plastic bags because some of the rubbish we put in bins is biodegradable and can be used as compost in our gardens. In developed countries waste generates revenue but for us we throw everything away,” said Mrs Sibanda.

She said the council will introduce centralised refuse collection where residents will take their bins to certain points near their houses on the day of refuse collection.

“Station collection makes collection easier, efficient and saves fuel and time as the truck won’t be getting into each and every street. We would need a cage, not for people to offload garbage but to put bins on the day of refuse collection. This will also encourage everyone to be responsible and not load soil and heavy material into bins,” explained the engineer.

Residents are encouraged to put electrical gadgets, metals, plastic paper and containers, tins and other items separately.

Mrs Sibanda said council will come up with a calendar for collection of specific type of waste.

She said even people who scavenge for valuables at the dumpsite will not do it haphazardly and litter the environment as they will go to specific points where the things they want will be.

Mrs Sibanda said in countries where waste separation is done at source, businesses advertise on refuse trucks because they are clean.

Outgoing Combined Victoria Falls Residents Association chair Mr Morgen Gazza Dube said it will be prudent to constantly educate residents about waste separation and recycling.

Source: Victoria Falls Municipality on waste management (11/09/20)

Friday 11 September 2020

Call for cleansing the Zambezi to end disasters

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

TRADITIONALISTS in Chief Mvuthu’s area outside Victoria Falls have called for cleansing of the Falls and its environs saying calamities like drownings in Zambezi River and attacks by wildlife are a result of the defilement of sacred places.

Chief Mvuthu’s area covers communities around Mvuthu, Ndlovu, Chikandakubi, Kachechete, Jabula, Chisuma, Sizinda, Monde, Woodlands and Victoria Falls town.

Original inhabitants are the Tokaleya people, a group of the BaTonga people also found across the Zambezi River in Zambia under Chief Mukuni.

Traditionalists from the Tokaleya ethnic group said some gorges along the Zambezi River and some places in the community were sacred and not supposed to be visited by strangers.

These include a shrine in Phakama Village where spirit mediums used to conduct rituals under a baobab tree, which reportedly fell about two decades ago but is still alive and bearing fruits, something which the traditionalists said signifies the anger of the gods.

Tour operating companies and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have reportedly fenced off some of the sacred places blocking access by traditionalists.

Traditionalists have accused some churches and people originally not from Victoria Falls of defiling sacred places by holding unsanctioned activities thereby angering the spirits.

Some villagers have also been accused of disrespecting the local cultural practices like upholding Thursday as a sacred day of rest.

The traditionalists have called for cleansing of the area saying they were committed to rectifying the wrongs that have happened.

They have approached elders from the Tokaleya people and agreed to conduct a cleansing ceremony on October 8 at the “fallen” baobab tree shrine in Phakama Village.

Three preparatory meetings have been held so far and a committee made up of traditionalists and traditional leaders has been formed.

Speaking at one of the meetings attended by traditional leaders, councillors from the area, police and Zimparks rangers in Chisuma during the week, chairman of the committee Mr Joshua Magomba Chuma, who is one of the surviving Tokaleya elders said drowning incidents on Zambezi River were a result of anger of the gods.

Two men drowned in Victoria Falls a fortnight ago while another drowned in Msuna area downstream in Hwange.

In August last year at almost the same time with the recent incidents, two siblings from Chidobe also drowned while posing for photos on the rocks in Zambezi River.

“We grew up knowing that Zambezi River was sacred and no one was allowed to swim or even go there but now anyone can do anything there. We have to respect other people’s cultures. All these drowning incidents that have happened are a sign that the gods are angry. We have to cleanse the area to appease the gods,” he said.

Alderman Elias Muzamba, also from the Tokaleya tribe said swimming in Zambezi River was not allowed.

“People should stop bathing or washing with soap in the Zambezi River. Some have even washed dark pots in the river while some have disturbed some graves. Some have taken clay pots that were used by spirit mediums on the river and even sold them to tourists as artefacts. All this has angered the spirits,” he said.

Zambezi River is used for rafting, bungee jumping, fishing, boat cruise and several other water activities that are popular with tourists.

Headman Afozani Mpofu who was representing acting Chief Mvuthu, Mr Bishop Matata Sibanda, accused some churches of deliberately disrespecting traditional leaders as they had openly defied custom.

“We are aware of the churches and groups of people that now conduct activities at the baobab tree. They are defiling the place and this should stop. We are glad now that you as the original owners of the place have decided to lead us in this,” he said. — @ncubeleon

Source: Call for cleansing the Zambezi to end disasters (11/09/20)

Monday 7 September 2020

Urban renewal plan targets Hwange, Victoria Falls

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

GOVERNMENT is working on an urban renewal housing model for Hwange and Victoria Falls in which dilapidated houses would be demolished and replaced with about 30 000 middle income structures at a new world class satellite town that will be attractive to tourists outside Victoria Falls town.

The plan would result in the setting up of Masue town and already, 10 out of 19 financial institutions in the country have signed up to back development of the town.

The model will be replicated along the country’s tourism corridor covering Batoka, Kariba and Kanyemba among others as Government wants social amenities to move in tandem with modern trends.

Housing and Social Amenities Minister Daniel Garwe visited Victoria Falls yesterday and engaged the municipality, Hwange Rural District Council and other stakeholders as he noted with concern the old, dilapidated housing structures in some old suburbs in the two tourism towns of Hwange and Victoria Falls.

Minister Garwe said Government had come up with an urban renewal policy which will see buildings constructed before Independence being demolished or refurbished.

He said where necessary Government would construct multi-purpose flats with several floors providing both accommodation and other services to maximise land use.

A funding model spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Investment Development Authority (Zida) is already in place while financial institutions have also come on board.

The housing projects will help reduce the national housing backlog currently at 1,5 million as well as help lure investors into the country.

“This is a follow-up to his Excellency President Mnangagwa’s visit to Victoria Falls where he launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy. As the Ministry of Social Housing and Social Amenities it is our key responsibility to ensure that social housing and social amenities are moving in tandem with the whole tourism development strategy.

“We want to ensure that there is urban renewal to remove all old and dilapidated houses that are in town and replace them with new housing for our civil servants. The transformation of Victoria Falls is what we are focusing on in terms of provision of social housing and amenities that are modern and climate proof, that speak to the future and to Vision 2030. We will be working very closely with the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works and the local authorities in the development of Masue City. It’s a new town which will be housing people from Victoria Falls and Hwange,” said Minister Garwe.

Victoria Falls and Hwange housing backlog is in excess of 15 000 and 10 000 respectively.

The Minister said the new town will have social amenities such as water and sewer, renewable energy, roads and internet services before houses are built, including a university, state-of-the-art medical facility, schools and shopping mall at the Masue Estate measuring more than 1 400 hectares.

“The two local authorities are going to be working very closely with the two ministries to ensure that the master plan is properly done, the houses are built properly and can attract investors from different directions and produce world class middle income housing and social amenities that speak to the future,” said Minister Garwe.

He said Government will fund institutional accommodation through Treasury while financial institutions will finance general housing projects.

The Minister said the Department of Physical Planning had already started making layout plans.

“Out of the 19 financial institutions we have in the country, 10 have already signed up to participate in the development of Victoria Falls, Batoka, Kariba and Kanyemba and the whole tourism corridor. We also have ZIDA spearheading financial mobilisation of investors from all over the world. So in terms of investment we are being guided by Zida but as a Ministry we had already done a lot of work in mobilising financial institutions,” added the Minister.

He said demand for housing is high in the country.

“Waiting list is around two million nationally but effective demand is 1,5 million houses. We can put demand for Hwange and Victoria Falls alone at round 30 000 hence we want to develop Masue City,” added the Minister.

He warned local authorities against engaging in corrupt allocation of land which he said creates land barons who rob citizens.

Source: Urban renewal plan targets Hwange, Victoria Falls (05/09/20)

Thursday 3 September 2020

Companies in Hwange National Park to mine for coal

 TWO Chinese companies are reportedly exploring for coal in the protected Hwange National Park, raising concerns from wildlife activists.

Library image of open-cast mining, Hwange District

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) rangers reportedly arrested some Chinese nationals inside the game park after finding doing some drilling.

The parks rangers handed them over to police only to be released and returned to the site with a permit allowing them to dig.

A statement from one of the leading wildlife conservation organisations, Bhejane Trust, stated that SustiGlobal and Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coal Mining Group are mining in Sinamatela and Robins Camp between Hwange and Victoria Falls.

Bhejane Trust, which confirmed authoring the statement, said SustiGlobal had circulated questionnaires seeking the views of concerned stakeholders about establishing a mine in the game park.

“Our Rhino monitoring team recently found some Chinese in Hwange National Park. We managed to ascertain they were drilling core samples for coal. Zimparks arrested them and took them to police.

“However, they soon reappeared with a permit giving them the right to carry on in the Park with exploratory drilling,” said Bhejane Trust which is based in Victoria Falls.

The trust said it was worried because the exploration work was being done without any consultation, as even Zimparks area manager was not aware of the goings on.

“They seem to feel they have a right to go wherever they like to. We followed up on this and discovered the Government has allocated two coal mining concessions in the middle of Sinamatela and Robins Camp.

“The mining concessions are special grants which apparently can only be issued by the President and both have been granted to Chinese companies. A company called SustiGlobal has subsequently sent us stakeholders questionnaire forms.

“One map shows the coal mining concession SG7263 that incorporates Deteema Dam and Masuma Dam out of a company called Afrochine Energy of the Tsingashan Group of China.

“The other concession SG5756 granted to the Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coal Mining Group has also contracted SustiGlobal to do an EIA again with an undated stakeholders’ questionnaire and again to cover initial exploratory drilling and opening of roads, building camps.

“However, they have started exploratory work in the park,” Bhejane Trust added.

The questionnaires are reportedly for an environmental impact assessment for the concessions but only to cover the initial exploratory drilling and opening of roads, building camps.

Bhejane Trust said their findings were that the concessions were granted late last year and was not sure if the EIA certificate had been granted.

“We are not certain to whom else the questionnaire have been sent and the questionnaires are not dated. Bhejane Trust has responded to the questionnaire and waits to hear back from SustiGlobal. We will be ready to support Zimparks where required,” read the statement.

The issue has raised emotions in Hwange where residents, tour operators and wildlife activists have vowed to block any mining in the national parks to protect wildlife.

Several coal mines operated by Chinese have opened in Hwange around the Hwange Colliery Company concession over the years.

Source: Chinese invade Hwange National Park to mine for coal (03/09/20)

Wednesday 2 September 2020

How tourism towns can do better on carbon emissions

By Kaitano Dube

Tourism, like any other economic sector, contributes to climate change through carbon emissions. The sector has a lot to lose from unsustainable practices, though. And this can have a serious impact on local and national economies and people’s livelihoods.

Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors. It contributes an average of about 10 percent to global gross domestic product and employs millions of young people and women across the world.

The first global tourism carbon emissions estimate report was released in 2005. Since then, there’s been a growing demand for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint. Tourism contributes about 5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. To address this, the World Travel and Tourism Council has committed to cutting back 50 percent of its emissions by 2035 relative to 2005 levels.

My study looked at one of Africa’s most famous tourism sites, Victoria Falls, also known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The study examined how the Victoria Falls town tourism industry contributed to greenhouse gas emissions and what the industry was doing to mitigate climate change.

I found that the main sources of carbon emissions were the hospitality, transport and attraction sectors. The findings show that there’s potential to reduce the site’s carbon footprint through improving operational efficiency and investigating in green technology.

These findings could also guide other tourism sites – such as Kruger National Park in South Africa, Kariba resort town in Zimbabwe and the Okavango Delta in Botswana – in their efforts to become more sustainable and more attractive to environmentally aware tourists.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is a nature-based tourism resort. As such, it also positions itself as a destination that’s conscious of its environmental practice. This is its brand appeal. Victoria Falls is an important tourism site to Zimbabwe and the broader African tourism market given several business linkages.

Victoria Falls itself is a fragile ecosystem. It has felt the impact of climate change through severe fluctuations in water flow at the waterfalls.

More than 600,000 tourists visit this World Heritage Site annually from around the world.

The primary activities in the resort town include a visit to the waterfalls, walking trails in the Victoria Falls rain forest, bungee jumping, game drives, swimming, cultural activities, boat rides and helicopter rides over the waterfalls. The primary economic activity in the town is tourism and immigration services.

My study focused on tourism businesses’ operational activities that have a bearing on greenhouse gas emissions, including green purchasing practices, type of equipment used, type of energy used, fuel consumption and measures to save energy and water. I found that the accommodation establishments in the Victoria Falls area were constructed sustainably to avoid minimal environmental disruptions.

Carbon emissions

My research found that various activities add to the burden of carbon emissions throughout the tourism value chain in Victoria Falls resort town.

All of the 50 accommodation establishments that participated in the research indicated that their operations were mostly dependent on electricity – which is mostly produced from coal. Drivers of emissions include energy inefficient equipment such as geysers and air conditioners.

Most accommodation establishments had high water usage, which also adds to the environmental footprint of the hospitality industry.

One of the worst contributors to greenhouse gases in the town is the vehicle fleet of the attraction and travel sector. Activities such as helicopter rides add to this, as do a large old fleet of road transport and large SUVs. The aviation sector alone, linking Victoria Falls to the world, is the site’s biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.

The study also found that despite some efforts to be sustainable – with a lot of resources used in the construction and design being local – the culture of green purchasing within the tourism sector had not reached the acceptable stage.

Green tourism

But the resort town has the potential to redefine itself as a green tourism destination. Cognisant of the impact of climate change on the destination and business prospects, a number of tourism businesses have started to follow green tourism practices.

Some of the establishments have started to reduce carbon emissions by adopting gas for cooking and investing in solar technology for heating and lighting. But the uptake of solar is still slow because the technology is expensive to install.

Other projects in the town include those aimed at offsetting carbon emissions by planting more trees, which store carbon. The main mitigating initiative was waste separation and recycling.

Given the current pace, the resort town is unlikely to meet the global emissions targets of reducing emissions by 40 percent by 2030 in line with the demands of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

Going forward

Given the potential dangers associated with failing to reduce carbon emissions and climate change, Victoria Falls – and other tourism sites – needs strategic measures to help it onto a greener path.

Green building designs are one way of reducing environmental impact while still keeping tourists comfortable. With regard to transport, there’s a need to decongest the town through a rapid, efficient transport system and encourage bicycle usage to reduce emissions from road transport.

Climate financing and rebates on equipment aimed at transitioning to green tourism are imperative from government, banks and other financing agencies. This financial assistance is crucial given the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry. A government led comprehensive policy is also needed to nudge more companies towards carbon neutral growth.

Source: How tourism towns can do better on carbon emissions (01/09/20)

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Coal Mining Concessions Given in Hwange National Park

From the Bhejane Trust Facebook Page (01/09/20):

Our Rhino Monitoring team recently found some Chinese in Hwange Park – we managed to ascertain they were drilling core samples for coal. Parks arrested them and turned them over to the Police. However, they soon reappeared with a permit giving them the right to carry on in the Park with exploratory drilling. They did this without any consultation with the Area Manager and seem to feel they have a right to go wherever they like to.

We followed up on this and discovered the Government has allocated two coal mining concessions in the middle of Sinamatella and Robins!. The mining concessions are Special Grants which apparently can only be issued by the President, and both been granted to Chinese companies.

A company called SustiGlobal have subsequently sent us Stakeholders Questionnaire forms One map shows the coal mining concession SG7263 that incorporates Deteema Dam and Masuma Dam, out to a company called Afrochine Energy of the Tsingashan Group of China. We are not certain to whom else the questionnaire have been sent, and the questionnaires are not dated. The questionnaires are for an EIA for the concessions but only to cover the initial exploratory drilling and opening of roads, building camps, etc. It appears the concession was promulgated in late 2019.

The other concession granted , SG 5756 to the Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coal Mining Group has also contracted SustiGlobal to do an EIA, again with an undated Stakeholders Questionnaire, and again to cover the initial exploratory drilling and opening of roads, building camps, etc. However, they have started exploratory work in the Park, so it is not sure if an EIA permit has been granted or not.

Bhejane Trust has replied to the questionnaire and waits to hear back from SustiClobal. We will be ready to support National parks where required.

Zambezi River swimming ends in double tragedy

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

THE bodies of two Victoria Falls men who drowned in the Zambezi River on Thursday have been found floating downstream.

Police, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers and guides from the Rafting Association of Zimbabwe (RAZ) led by Wild Horizons, had been searching for the bodies of Elson Mathe (24) and Thamsanga Ncube (22) since Friday.

The two drowned at gorge number six where they had gone for swimming with a group of about 25 friends before a huge wave hit them at around 3.40pm.

The others who were closer to the edge of the river swam to safety while Ncube who was a soccer player for ZPC Hwange FC and Mathe drowned.

Kayakers who were dispatched Sunday morning to look for the bodies, spotted the first one floating on the Zambian side of the river at gorge number 7B while the other was on gorge number 9 on the Zimbabwean side.

Gorge number 7B is about 3km while gorge number 9 is about 5km downstream from gorge number 6 where the duo allegedly drowned.

RAZ chairman Mr Skinner Ndlovu led a team of guides as they sailed downstream and secured the bodies in ‘body bags’ before loading them on a raft.

They sailed further for about 10km downstream to gorge number 11 where about 60 men including villagers from nearby Monde village had gathered to help carry the bodies up the gorge.

It took about 30 minutes to reach the gorge where a police vehicle was waiting to carry the decomposing bodies to the mortuary.

Mr Ndlovu said the mission was hectic.

“We started mobilising our team after we received a call from ZRP. We usually do it with police sub aqua but they were doing another rescue somewhere. So, we set off in conjunction with police and Zimparks and we have been sending people down the river since Friday to check until today when the first team of kayakers found them and notified us.

“We organised a few guys and went down in a raft to do the recovery of the bodies. We want to thank the effort of everyone who was involved in the operation,” said Mr Ndlovu on Sunday.

He said the water level in the Zambezi River was still high and suitable only for high water rafting which starts from Rapid Number 11 going downstream.

He said any water activity between Rapid number 1 and rapid number 10 is dangerous.

Police who were at the scene commended efforts of members of the public particularly Monde villagers and RAZ members who include Wild Horizons, Shearwater Adventures, Adventure Zone, Shockwave and Try Rafting.

Matabeleland North police spokesperson Chief Inspector Siphiwe Makonese appealed to members of the public to desist from playing in water bodies.

“I can confirm that the bodies of the two who drowned while swimming at gorge number 6 on the Zambezi River have been retrieved this afternoon. RAZ led by Mr Skinner Ndlovu and other rafting companies, police, Zimparks rangers and Monde villagers managed to work together to retrieve the bodies from gorge number 7 and 9,” she said.

“Just last week another life was lost when a man drowned while fishing in Msuna area,” she said.

Gorge number 6 is frequented by youths for swimming and beer drinking while some Zionist and apostolic sects also conduct prayers and baptism sessions at the same place.

Early this year a man cheated death after he fell down the cliff near the same spot during a church prayer session.

In August last year, two brothers from Chidobe outside Victoria Falls drowned at Rapid Number 19 in the same river while posing for pictures.

In February last year an Israeli tourist also drowned while swimming without a life jacket under the Victoria Falls Bridge.-@ncubeleon

Source: Zambezi River swimming ends in double tragedy (01/09/20)