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Wednesday 31 March 2021

Victoria Falls residents decimate Chamabondo National Park

SOME suburbs in Victoria Falls have been without electricity for a decade and residents have been cutting down trees for firewood causing massive deforestation in the nearby Chamabondo National Park.

The Victoria Falls City council management has expressed concern over the cutting down of trees which is an environmental hazard.

Hlalani Kuhle, BC846, BC847 which have been in existence for about a decade as well as CBZ stands that were built starting in 2016 have no electricity.

Some electricity poles still lie on the ground where Zesa electricians dumped them a few years ago.

Residents use firewood, charcoal, gas and solar energy. Many poach firewood from the bush where they usually have running battles with anti-poaching teams from the local authority, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and other private organisations.

A news crew spoke to some of the residents who said they risk their lives from being attacked by wildlife or shot by rangers as they fetch firewood in the bush.

They said life is unbearable and implored authorities to urgently look into the matter and connect electricity to the area.

“We usually monitor the movement of rangers and enter the bush mostly during lunch time or towards the evening when they stop patrolling. We have had several encounters with rangers and anti-poaching units and those who fail to run away get arrested and usually are made to pay spot fines or at the police,” said one of the residents, Ms Sithulisiwe Ncube of CBZ.

Ms Saneliso Dube of BC846 said she has resorted to gas because of the running battles with rangers.

“We still have no electricity here and I now use gas and charcoal for cooking. We wish one day Zesa will connect us because we are tired of buying charcoal,” she said.

Ms Molly Tonono of CBZ stands said they need electricity ironing, cooking and charging electrical gadgets.

Some said they struggle to work from home as they cannot use electrical gadgets such as laptops and phones because of lack of electricity.
A few fortunate ones have installed solar panels for lighting and connecting electrical gadgets.

Victoria Falls City mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini said the council has engaged Energy and Power Development as well as Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministries over the issue.

He said residents resort to haphazard cutting of trees because they are desperate.

“Deforestation was necessitated by failure by the power utility to connect the suburbs to the grid. Some of the suburbs were built in 2010 but still have no electricity and residents get into the bush for firewood. We hope Zesa will act faster in erecting the poles they delivered some time ago,” Cllr Dlamini said.

Acting Zesa spokesperson Ms Prisca Utete could not be reached on her mobile phone for comment but a source within the power utility said the company is struggling to get transformers to connect new suburbs.

Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu who was in Victoria Falls last week, said Government was aware of the issue after being approached by the local authority and is worried about cutting down of trees hence measures would be taken to address the situation.-@NyikaLingani

Source: Victoria Falls residents decimate Chamabondo National Park (31/03/21)

Monday 8 March 2021

Victoria Falls baboons wreak havoc

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

BABOONS are causing havoc in Victoria Falls where they have developed a habit of ambushing people and snatching food from them.

They have become violent and charge at anyone carrying food.

While the presence of baboons is not unusual in border towns and ports of entry such as Victoria Falls including Kazungula, Beitbridge and Chirundu, lately they have been vicious as they enter shops and houses to steal food.

The behaviour is probably triggered by hunger as they cannot find fast-food leftovers in rubbish bins which are always empty because of lack of tourism activity and restricted operation of restaurants.

While elsewhere baboons feed on wild fruits in the forest, Victoria Falls and other border towns’ baboons have developed a liking for homemade food and leftovers from restaurants hence they move around emptying bins as they scavenge for leftovers.

However, baboons now enter houses and shops to steal food.

A few days ago a baboon caused a stir when it entered OK Supermarket and stole a packet of chips.

It attempted to go in through the front door but was chased away. Undeterred, it returned to enter through the roof and jumped into the shop through the ceiling, leaving shoppers shocked.

The baboons have reportedly been breaking windows to gain entry into shops.

A news crew has been observing baboons scavenging for food in bins which they empty thereby polluting the area.

Some move in troops while others attack as individuals.

The central business district is the worst affected.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some residents said the baboons had turned Victoria Falls into a war zone.

“We clean baboon poo in the office almost every day. I think they had mastered the lockdown business hours and would enter the shops once people knock off. Lately they have been breaking into shops even in the presence of people. They broke two window panes into our shop and have been sneaking inside and mess around before entering the ceiling. Sometimes we see them peeping inside wanting to come in,” said an employee at one of the shops.

Residents have appealed to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to drive the baboons away.

They said it’s now risky to move around carrying food as the baboons can differentiate plastic bags from food outlets from those from other shops.

Residents said women have fallen victim to the menacing baboons more than men.

Recently some baboons ambushed three women who were carrying some groceries forcing them to seek refuge at the ZimParks town office.

“Some now camp in front of Chicken Inn or OK shops and snatch whatever they see people carrying. One baboon recently caused a stir when it entered OK shop, went on top of a butchery fridge before jumping onto a nearby shelf where it snatched a packet of chips and fled. On another day they charged at a man who had just bought two pies and he threw them down as he fled,” said a source.

Tourism operators fear the baboons will harass tourists if they are not driven away.

“Baboons have become a real menace in town because companies are closed and there is no food in rubbish bins.

These problem animals may continue to harass people when tourism opens as this is their new behaviour hence we implore national parks to capture them and migrate them elsewhere,” said tourism executive Mr Clement Mukwasi.

Councillor Netsai Shoko whose Ward 2 covers the central business district said the situation has gone out of hand.
She implored ZimParks to drive away the animals.

“The baboons are now roaming freely and terrorising residents and school children from whom they also snatch school bags. “People can’t freely walk around carrying groceries. Last week we rescued a small boy in Chinotimba as baboons charged at him because he was carrying some food. They get into yards and sneak into houses where they open fridges and cupboards to steal food. Nearly everyone is complaining about the baboons and ZimParks has to do something,” said Clr Shoko.

Even rural communities are also affected.

Chief Whange said some villagers in Kasibo are staring hunger after their maize crops were eaten by marauding baboons.

“We have a serious problem of baboons. They are too many and we have reported to rangers who drove them away but they have come back. People were expecting a bumper harvest but their fields have been destroyed,” he said. — @ncubeleon

Source: Victoria Falls baboons wreak havoc (08/03/21)

Saturday 6 March 2021

Zambia shelves Victoria Falls Bridge decision

 Victoria Falls – The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has indefinitely shelved plans to force haulage trucks to use Kazungula Bridge by denying them access through Livingstone-Victoria Falls Border Post.

The ban was supposed to be effective March 1, 2021 and the justification given was the need to reduce the volume of heavy commercial traffic into the resorts of Livingstone and Victoria Falls towns.

Four countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe –meet at the Kazungula quadripoint. Botswana and Zambia recently opened a bridge at Kazungula to link the two countries, in a project that Zimbabwe declined to participate in.

A former vice-president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Mr Ozious Marange, said the ZRA’s rethink was welcome.

“We are very grateful that Zambia postponed the ban on the use of Victoria Falls Bridge by commercial trucks. They should let transporters freely choose which route to use instead of forcing them to use an expensive one,” he said.

He added that authorities should also consider a transit point at Batoka for transporters moving between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

According to the Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe, nearly 100 haulage trucks daily cross the Victoria Falls Bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe over the Zambezi River. Most of these are 30-tonners carrying copper, coal, coke, cobalt, sulphur and other commodities to destinations that include Angola, Botswana, the DRC, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

However, tourism sector stakeholders support the proposal to induce transporters to transit through Kazungula as a means of reducing noise and air pollution in Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

Source: Zambia shelves Kazungula Bridge decision (05/03/21)

Wednesday 3 March 2021

Zimparks campsites project faces resistance


ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) has come under pressure from a Victoria Falls-based wildlife rights campaign group to immediately stop the construction of top-end leisure facilities in concessions reserved for public campsites.

The concession lies at the heart of the Zambezi National Park, which encompasses wildlife rich estates upstream of the mighty Victoria Falls. Together with the nearby Victoria Falls National Park, the two forests cover about 56 000 hectares.

They are some of southern Africa’s most protected and attractive wildlife estates that generate millions in foreign currency for Zimbabwe, and trigger an outcry once authorities attempt to disturb them.

The attractiveness of the vast forests is derived from the presence of a variety of wild animals including the Big Five, which are part of 75 species roaming the area, the Zimbabwean stretch of the world-acclaimed Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park.

It makes the concession a big attraction for authorities to lease out and raise foreign currency.

But conflicts arise when these leases are grabbed by rich corporations and powerful individuals to develop them and attract foreign currency paying international tourists and hunters.

NewsDay heard yesterday that along with the legal action, a campaign dubbed Save Siansimba has been launched to force ZimParks to stop the changes it is effecting.

In a statement released at the weekend, Save Siansimba said ZimParks wanted to upgrade several of the campsites in the next six months to pave way for big investors.

The campaign claimed that ZimParks could not claim to be short of funds when it generated about US$8,5 million annually from the Victoria Falls Rainforest alone.

“While the case is yet to be heard in Zimbabwe’s courts, (ZimParks) has chosen to disregard the case brought against them and continue to allocate pristine wilderness to private developers,” the campaign said.

“Not only is this a violation of the public’s rights, but these camps will also increase human and vehicle traffic into these wild areas considerably. And whilst some human presence has proved to stop anti-poaching and increase the number of wild animals in the area, too many of them will soon have an adverse effect. National Parks claims they are leasing land as a solution to economic hardships but many argue that this is short-termism which was unsustainable and irreversible,” said Save Siansimba.

ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said he could not comment since the matter was before the courts.

Source: Zimparks campsites project faces resistance (02/03/21)