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Thursday 31 March 2022

Victoria Falls Hotel receives Light of Stewardship Award

Herald Correspondent

The Anglican Church has presented The Victoria Falls Hotel with an award acknowledging its stewardship of an in-house chapel that recently celebrated its 90th anniversary.

The Light of Stewardship Award was given to the hotel’s general manager, Farai Chimba, during a celebratory weekend commemorating the chapel’s nine decades of active service to guests of the hotel and the Victoria Falls community.

“We are honoured to have received this award and we are delighted and proud that our chapel continues to be a source of spiritual inspiration and service to God,” said Mr Chimba.

The Victoria Falls Hotel was established in 1904 and for almost 65 years was the only hotel on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi river, with the nearest amenities and facilities of a religious nature being in Livingstone, Zambia, about 12 kilometres away.

A chapel was installed and dedicated in 1932 and since that time has hosted weekly services and a large number of celebratory or commemorative events such as weddings, funerals, baptisms and confirmations. It is named St Mary Magdalene Chapel, and can seat up to 30 people for a service, with other celebrants able to sit on the lawn outside to hear what is happening inside.

One of the highlights of its history of service was its hosting of members of Britain’s royal family during their stay at the hotel over Easter 1947, when they attended divine service on Easter Sunday. King George VI was on a royal tour of Southern African at the time, a visit aimed at thanking the people of the region for their support of the allies during World War 2, and their visit to Victoria Falls took place over Easter, giving them a time of rest and reflection during a busy, three-month regional tour, mostly by train.

He was accompanied by his wife, Queen Elizabeth – who became Queen Mother after his death in 1952 – and by his daughters, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret.

Mr Chimba said the chapel was a significant and cherished featured of the hotel, which will commemorate its own 120th anniversary in 2024.

“As one of only two hotels in Zimbabwe to have its own chapel, we are proud to be custodians for the Anglican church of a facility that gives such comfort and spiritual access to so many people, including guests, staff and members of the local community,” he said.

The other hotel with a chapel in-house is Cresta Jameson in Harare.

The 90th anniversary celebration was attended by the Bishop of the Diocese of Matabeleland, the Right Reverend Cleophas Lunga, as well as by members of the church, the hotel and the National Railways of Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls Hotel, which was built by the railways authorities just before the construction of the north-bound railway line reached Victoria Falls in 1904, is owned by Emerged Railways Properties, in turn owned by the railways authorities of Zimbabwe and Zambia, and it is leased to The Victoria Falls Hotel Partnership, made up equally of African Sun and Meikles Hospitality.

The anniversary was marked by an official dinner and a mass, at which the chapel was rededicated to its purpose of serving God through providing the community with a house of worship.

“As we look towards a renewed period of growth for travel and tourism in the post-Covid era, we in The Victoria Falls Hotel are inspired by the history and purpose of St Mary Magdalene Chapel and we commit to continued stewardship of this historic facility,” said Mr Chimba.

Clergy in attendance thanked the hotel in general and Mr Chimba in particular for their stewardship and support and expressed delight at knowing the facility would remain both operational and cared for.

Source: Victoria Falls Hotel receives Light of Stewardship Award (30/03/22)

Sunday 27 March 2022

Victoria Falls World Heritage Status Hangs in Balance

 There are fears the Victoria Falls could be delisted as a World Heritage Site following massive construction activities either side of the Zambezi River might have tampered some animal corridors and natural sites.

These have been carried out on either side of the Zambezi River, between Zambia and Zimbabwe since the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) added Victoria Falls to that list in 1989.

This was based on its unique geomorphologic formation and remarkable natural beauty.

UNESCO is assessing if the destination still qualifies as a World Heritage Site.

As the custodian of these sites, UNESCO recently sent a monitoring team to assess the current state of Victoria Falls and its environs.

The UN body has the mandate to carry periodic assessments.

Zambia National Commission Secretary General for UNESCO, Charles Ndakala, led the monitoring team.

He mentioned possible outcomes, which include downgrading/red-listing or removed from the list.

"We were assessing as mandated to check the effects of developments on the World Heritage site. This also includes the planned Batoka project as we wanted to engage stakeholders to find out how it will affect tourism upstream," said Ndakala.

He was speaking during a recent meeting with tourism stakeholders in Victoria Falls after similar meetings on the Zambian side.

Ndakala said the committee will compile a report with its findings.

"This process will result in a report that will be presented to superiors at the upcoming UNESCO World Heritage Convention in June," the official said.

"The report will determine whether Victoria Falls continues as a listed World Heritage Site or it gets downgraded which is also called red-listing, or is totally removed from the list."

"This is only assessment for potential impact of the threats since there are certain parameters to be followed in terms of the need to preserve tourism and value of the product," Ndakala said.

Tanyaradzwa Mundoga, Zimbabwe Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Ministry deputy director responsible for Natural Resources, said there is need to safeguard the natural habitat so as to keep Victoria Falls in its pristine state.

Tourism executive, Clement Mukwasi, who is Shearwater Adventures spokesperson, said the industry will be guided by the UNESCO findings.

Victoria Falls' falling water blanket is about 1,7km wide and falls 108 metres down the gorge and is classified as the largest waterfall in the world.

The waterfall is within Victoria Falls National Park, which together with the Victoria Falls bridge, attract a significant number of tourists annually.

It is one of the five World Heritage Sites in Zimbabwe, others being Khami and Great Zimbabwe ruins both declared in 1986, Matobo Hills (2003) as well as Mana Pools (1984).

Source: Victoria Falls World Heritage Status Hangs in Balance (23/03/22)