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

Saturday 28 October 2023

Overdevelopment threat to future of tourism

Leonard Ncube, The Bulawayo Chronicle

VICTORIA Falls City Council has engaged Pantic Architects, an architectural design firm to prepare for the drafting of a 15-year masterplan amid concerns by residents over the over-development of the city, which is a threat to the future of tourism.

Victoria Falls is a Unesco tourism heritage site and the city’s economy is hinged on tourism backed by wildlife and the Mighty Victoria Falls, a world natural wonder.

There are concerns that there has been over-commercialisation and development along the Zambezi River where a number of restaurants and bars have been constructed thereby blocking animal corridors. Residents also blame the prevalent human-wildlife conflict on the over-development of the place as animal corridors have reportedly been invaded by humans. The local authority on Wednesday held a stakeholders’ meeting to update residents on the consultation and survey that the consultant is set to carry out as the process of crafting the master plan begins.

Residents warned that tourism may be negatively impacted in the next decade if animal corridors are not respected. The local authority is jointly funding the exercise with the World Bank, through the International Finance Corporation (IFC) which was represented by Ms Emmie Parirenyatwa at the meeting.

Speaking at the same meeting, acting Town Clerk Ms Kholani Mangena said the masterplan will guide the growth of the city, especially in infrastructure development and co-ordination with other institutions such as Government departments.

She said the masterplan will also provide guidance when it comes to decisions on land use development and environmental preservation.

“The masterplan will outline future building projects, break down budget requirements, and assist in securing and allocating funds. As such this is a futuristic document that creates a roadmap to the envisioned outlook of Victoria Falls,” said Ms Mangena.

She said when developing a masterplan, there should be community engagement gathering and analysis of relevant data, recommendations, and proposals for the city’s population, economy, housing, transportation, and community facilities. Ms Mangena said stakeholder engagement marks the start of the process of crafting the document which is central to all other development plans in the local authority including the city’s five-year development strategy.

The council masterplan seeks to expand the city’s development zone to a radius of 30km, which will create the need for collaboration with neighbouring local authorities such as Hwange Rural District Council and the upcoming Masuwe City. Residents said the council should be cognisant of the need to preserve the environment in its natural state. “We have a challenge with organisations such as Zimparks and the National Railways of Zimbabwe since they own vast tracts of land, and they are haphazardly building on animal corridors without consultations,” said Mr Trymore Ndolo, a resident.

“Victoria Falls is what it is because of the Rainforest, the Falls and wildlife hence it is important to consider that when planning.”

Former councillor, Mr John Sianaka noted that Victoria Falls is slowly losing its status as a wildlife heritage site.

“What we have seen lately is that Zimparks and NRZ are not co-ordinating with other stakeholders. There are no more animal corridors and with the developments that are happening it’s like we are literally saying we don’t want tourism anymore because in the next 10 years, there won’t be animals to talk about,” he said.

Mr Sianaka said there is a need to balance between economic growth and a sustainable environment. Another resident implored the local authority to invest in recycling as it implements the masterplan. He said the local authority should make sure that the master plan speaks to SDGs.

“We must be reminded that Victoria Falls is a tourist destination where tourists come to view animals and the Falls. The whole river-front has been blocked by buildings and animals have nowhere to drink water from,” said the resident.

Matabeleland North provincial planning officer in the Department of Spatial Planning and Development, Mr Raymond Nyandoro said the masterplan will not change the city’s boundaries. He said it will only ensure there is maximum use of land within its jurisdiction. Mr Nyandoro said the document will help prevent the haphazard development of infrastructure in the city.

“All departments should come together and the final document should speak to the combined aspirations of the people of Victoria Falls and the environment that will be included.

So, co-ordination is definitely a function of this tool and it’s a legal tool and anything against it is ultra vires where people be charged for going against provisions of the masterplan,” he said.

Ms Innocencia Tigere, a town planner from Pantic Architects, said consultations will target a cross section of the community. -@ncubeleon

Source: Overdevelopment threat to future of tourism (27/10/23)

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Victoria Falls attracts US$64m new hotel investor

LAMCENT Capital, a local equity investment company will start constructing a 160-room hotel worth US$64 million in Victoria Falls early next year in a Build-Operate and Transfer partnership with the local authority.

From the day of groundbreaking, which Lamcent founder and chief executive Mr Lameck Tarupuwa said is scheduled for the first quarter next year, the project will take a maximum of 36 months to complete.

Lamcent Capital entered into a partnership with the Victoria Falls City Council for the project and will rope in Hilton, a multinational hotel brand and hospitality company that manages and franchises a broad portfolio of hotels and resorts, to run the business.

The tenure of the BOT is 50 years. Lamcent Capital approached some local financiers for equity and debt financing and also applied to the Insurance and Pensions Commission to get prescribed asset status for the project.

Mr Tarupuwa said financial closure for the project is around 70 percent and all processes will be completed before the end of the year to pave way for groundbreaking and commencement of actual construction works.

The project already has Cabinet approval and is set to transform lives in Victoria Falls as it will employ about 1 000 people once commissioned with minimal disturbance to the natural environment as the proprietors are adopting a green technology approach.

In a recent interview at the recent Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo in Bulawayo, Mr Tarupuwa said the hotel will be located on a 3,2ha piece of land between Palm River Hotel and Azambezi Hotel.

It will have a high-end product and river frontage with seven specialty restaurants, six river-facing chalets, and high-end shops giving tourists a one-stop shop experience.

“We are the promoters for the Victoria Falls Hotel, which we are going to build starting in the next six months. We signed a partnership agreement with the Victoria Falls City Council who are the owners of the land,” he said.

“The concession agreement will ensure that they will provide us with the land and as the promoters we build, operate, and hand it over to the council after the concession period, which is 50 years.

“The hotel will be 160 keys with seven specialty restaurants, six river-facing chalets, high-end products, and will have leisure facilities and high-end shops so there will be no need for clients to travel to the central business district.”

Mr Tarupuwa said Lamcent carried out market and financial feasibility studies looking at the sustainability of the market and net value of the business and the recommendation was that the project can set up a 200-key hotel.

“After the feasibility study, we went and met the Government through the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency so the project has received Cabinet approval,” he said.

“We agreed to look for a brand and we shortlisted 10 international ones and looked at their proposals and selected Hilton. We have signed agreements, which then allowed us to engage a technical team and architects.

“We have gone to the market and we are now looking for funding to merge with our funding.

“We are hopeful that we will get financial closure before the end of the year and in the first quarter we have to do ground breaking then we start the actual construction,” said Mr Tarupuwa.

“It’s a big project of US$64 million and will take between 24 and 36 months to complete and thereafter we will rope in our operator.”

Mr Tarupuwa said an environmental impact assessment has also been done considering Victoria Falls has a lot of sustainability issues especially as the destination is a UNESCO heritage site and the natural environment should be kept in its pristine form.

“We tried to incorporate all regulations into our designs hence we managed to get EIA certification on the project. Our project is going to use less 20 percent electricity through solar, less 20 percent water through recycling,” he said.

The local industry value chain will also benefit with the hotel proprietors planning an out-grower farmers training to be able to supply the required horticulture produce.

As part of the agreement with the local authority, the hotel implementers will build two community halls at two local schools as part of corporate social responsibility, and the project, worth US$600 000, will be implemented concurrently with the construction of the hotel.

Mr Tarupuwa said the project dovetails the Government development agenda.

“It’s an exciting project and our small way of contributing towards the growth of the tourism and hospitality industry,” he said.

This is the first tourism project by the equity developer although the business has a huge presence in agriculture in the Tugwi Mukosi area, lithium mining, and real estate where it has rolled out 120 housing units in partnership with National Building Society, shopping malls construction and education sector where it has built five schools.

Once implemented, this will arguably become one of the major hotel projects with a complement of more than 100 rooms to be done in Victoria Falls in the last decade.

Victoria Falls City Council Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube recently confirmed the partnership.

He said the council was working on a local development plan around the project.

Victoria Falls was designated a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and work is underway to operationalise the concept through the Integrated Development Programme/Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga SEZ whose idea is to integrate economic activities, catapult growth and improve livelihoods in the province.

The project speaks to the national development agenda that targets the transformation of the prime tourism destination into a world-class city and resort gains momentum.

Since the coming of the Second Republic, massive developments have taken place in Victoria Falls despite the dampening impact of the illegal sanctions.

Victoria Falls is a strategic destination whose operations have a huge bearing on the attainment of the Government’s US$5 billion tourism economy target by 2025, and Vision 2030 of achieving an upper middle-income society.

The Government plans to build Masue and Batoka satellite towns as part of the Victoria Falls Development Plan whose corridor comprises Masue Stateland, Batoka City, Mlibizi, Binga Centre, Sijalila, Hwange Hinterland and Gwayi-Shangani resort.

Source: Victoria Falls attracts US$64m new hotel investor (24/10/23)

Monday 23 October 2023

UNESCO denies Zim Minister's Claim of Approval for Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme

UNESCO have denied reports in the Zimbabwe national press that it has given approval to the controversial Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme (BGHES).

Zimbabwean Energy and Power Development Minister, Edgar Moyo, claimed in news reports published last week that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) gave approval to the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme at its recent 45th Session. 

“From our Zimbabwean and Zambian side, we were together saying there would be no environmental impact to the extent that the heritage status of the area around the gorge would be affected. What then emerged was that we are now in agreement with UNESCO and all other stakeholders along the Zambezi that the project has to go ahead.” (Sunday Mail, 15th October 2023)

His comments were quickly supported by the Chief Executive officer of the Zambezi River Authority, Munyaradzi Munodawafa, who stated that UNESCO had “looked at the reports and our presentations and agreed that Batoka could go ahead... Now we are good to go. We are on solid ground and by the end of next month, I will have an actual date of commencement.” (The Herald, 19th October 2023)

Batoka Gorge

UNESCO, however, were quick to dismiss the reports.

"UNESCO’s response to these claims emphasized serious concerns about the Batoka Gorge project, particularly the unavoidable adverse effects it could have on the designated World Heritage Site... The committee not only recommended a re-evaluation of the environmental and social impact assessment of the planned dam but also called for a reduction in the height of the proposed dam wall. Moreover, it expressed disapproval regarding the construction of a new hotel within the site, which was carried out despite UNESCO’s request for the suspension of such activities. A revised study on the planned dam’s impact must be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the International Union for Conservation of Nature before any further decisions can be made." (BNN, 19th October 2023)

The clarification from UNESCO has yet to be reported in the Zimbabwe press which originally published the claims of approval for the scheme.

The false claims of approval follow the recent 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee, where South Africa proposed amendments to the Committee's draft decision text regarding the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site, effectively diluting the Committee's response to the proposed BGHES and undermining the recommendations from the recent Reactive Monitoring Mission to the site, conducted in early 2022. Both South Africa and Zambia are currently members of the Committee (although their terms expire in November this year).

Read more - World Heritage Committee Dilutes Reaction to Batoka Gorge HydroElectric Scheme (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, 27th September 2023).

Read more on the Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Scheme on the Keep Victoria Falls Wild website.


Sunday Mail, Batoka power project hurdles cleared, 15th October. [External link, opens in new window.]

The Herald, UN agency clears US$5bn Batoka Gorge power project, 19th October. [External link, opens in new window.]

BNN, UNESCO Denies Clearance for $5 Billion Zambezi Dam Project Near Victoria Falls, 19th October. [External link, opens in new window.]

Friday 20 October 2023

Process starts for Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone

GOVERNMENT has started the process of implementing the much-awaited Masuwe Special Economic Zone project in Victoria Falls with a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the first phase of the project set for the first week of December.

Government set up Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company (Pvt) Ltd, a State Enterprise as an investment vehicle for the development of tourism in Victoria Falls.

Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company owns 274,1 hectares of prime land in Jafuta Masuwe Estate which part of the Integrated Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone.

The parastatal’s nine-member board chaired by Mrs Sheila Sidambe was appointed in 2021 and given the mandate to deliver infrastructure development in Victoria Falls.

Government expects the company to deliver on its mandate to grow the tourism product base in Victoria Falls and this is a must-deliverable in the lifespan of the National Development Strategy (NDS1) (2021 to 2025).

Cabinet approved the implementation of the Masuwe Special Economic Zone in Jafuta Estate following a feasibility study that found the scheme to be highly profitable.

This paved way for the implementation of the project and Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company is now busy scouting for investors, with Zimbabwe Cricket becoming the first serious investor that has shown interest.

In terms of Masuwe City scope, Government earmarks a multi-million dollar project comprising a five-star convention centre with matching flagship hotels and villas, a golf estate, a medical tourism facility, a commercial central business district, an international service centre, high-end residential units and other top-notch facilities.

The plan for Masuwe City started effectively in July 2020 following Government approval.

Cabinet endorsed a final report for the project in March this year paving the way for the appointment of a town planner for the project.

Zimbabwe Cricket plans to build a 10 000-seater cricket stadium starting in December this year, becoming the pacesetter on the mega project with numerous other investors showing interest in the project, which is set to become a game-changer in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.

ZC promised to have a ground-breaking for the stadium project in the first week of December after which construction will start. Between US$5 million and US$10 million will be invested mainly from grants from the International Cricket Council.

Yesterday Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company management led by Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Tongai Mnangagwa and Permanent Secretary Dr Takaruza Munyanyiwa and ZC management toured the Jafuta Estate.

Briefing the Deputy Minister and other delegates, Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company chief executive Mr Gabriel Mapondera said the company is presently doing statutory consultations and is ready to enter into an agreement with any investors approved by Government.

“As we speak the department has started statutory consultations process. We think we can conclude in November and obtain subdivision permits which can then pave the way for subdivision and pegging,” he said.

“Now, we have a specific allocation for a multi-purpose sports facility which is why Zimbabwe Cricket is here to assess the site.”

ZC said the ground-breaking will be done in the first week of December and the two parties were expected to start signing agreements yesterday allaying fears of acquiring land for speculative tendencies.

ZC chairperson, Mr Tavengwa Mukuhlani said the cricket body is ready to start constructing the stadium, which will be ready to host the 2026 Under 19 Cricket World Cup.

Dr Munyanyiwa said the project will help diversify tourism products and packages with the introduction of sports tourism.

“This development has become a breaking point towards having sports tourism in our country. This is a serious development that will be a game changer to tourism in Zimbabwe and we continue to have interest from investors who want to partner Government in the Masuwe project,” he said.

Dr Munyanyiwa said the development by ZC is going to be a pull factor for other investors to come.

Deputy Minister Mnangagwa said any facility to be developed in the Masuwe project should meet SEZ standards.

“They have promised that starting in December they will start building the stadium so that the World Cup is held here in two years time. The project will be an anchor to any other project that will be attracted into the area,” he said.

“They are ready to break the ground and as we speak, we are signing MoUs meaning we are kick-starting the project as everything has been ironed out and nothing will stand in the way of this development.”

Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conference capital and this dovetails with the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition drive.— @ncubeleon

Source: Process starts for Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone (19/10/23)

Thursday 19 October 2023

Yet Another New Hotel Development for Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)

A NEW upmarket hotel is on the cards in Victoria Falls as the prime tourism destination continues to attract increased investments in new facilities under the Second Republic.

Property investment company, Mashonaland Holdings, with interests in health, retail and commercial, is spearheading the project after securing a 1,4-ha piece of land near an existing big hotel facility.

Mashonaland Holdings has partnered with Time Hotels, an international premier collection of United Arab Emirates modern and stylish hotels, that visited Victoria Falls last year to scout for investment opportunities.

Addressing tourism stakeholders and buyers at the Zimbabwe Investment Forum that was organised by ZTA as a side event to the recent Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo in Bulawayo, Mashonaland Holdings chief finance officer, Mr Kudakwashe Musundire, said concept designs are being done and this will clarify the total investment that will be put into the project which is expected to start in a few months.

Mashonaland Holdings has completed building a US$3 million 20-bed hospital in Milton Park, Harare in partnership with a health service provider. The project is 98 percent complete and plans are underway to start operating in the next few weeks or months, according to Mr Musundire.

Mashonaland Holdings is also into housing projects and looking at opportunities to partner with different local authorities in the country.

“As Mashonaland Holdings we are super excited to be part of the tourism sector in Zimbabwe. We have got a number of projects that we are at the moment working on, some of them not directly related to the tourism sector,” said Mr Musundire.

The hotel will be strategically located to give a view of the Victoria Falls waterfall and Zambezi River from the facility.

Source: New hotel for Victoria Falls (18/10/23)

Monday 9 October 2023

Repairs solve water crisis in Victoria Falls

VICTORIA Falls City residents are now enjoying uninterrupted water supplies following the completion of the maintenance work at the city’s pump station resulting in 900 cubic metres being pumped per hour.

Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube said water being pumped is enough to supply all residents. Residents in the resort city have in the past few weeks been going for days without water as Victoria Falls City Council struggled to repair a burst pipe at its main pump station where more than 60 percent of water was being lost before distribution.

The local authority had resorted to using bowsers to supply residents in the wake of the biting water crisis. The Government granted Victoria Falls City Council autonomy to manage its own water reticulation a few years ago.

In the past, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) used to manage the city’s water reticulation. The council is pumping water from the Zambezi River using an ageing pumping system.

Mr Dube said the situation had improved significantly following the completion of repair work.

“The problem was at the source where we get water from the river and piping from the abstraction point to the waterworks. Our old infrastructure was giving us problems and we had to change now we are pumping using two pumps with a combined capacity of 900 cubic metres per hour,” he said.

“We are now supplying at a maximum and it is enough to cover consumption even the areas where we have not had water for a long time are now covered.”

The city council is making efforts to upgrade the water system through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) programme that also involves upgrading sewer services.

A few months ago council launched a US$4 million wash programme where two mega reservoirs are being constructed in Mkhosana to improve storage and distribution.

The city had also budgeted more than US$1 million for the upgrade of the water abstraction plant where a new plant is supposed to be put to permanently address the water crisis.

The project was mooted several years ago and the local authority rehabilitated most of its infrastructure in 2012 in preparation for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation when it was realised that Wash infrastructure needed upgrading.

The rapid growth of the city in terms of the number of properties and hotels put pressure on water supply, sewerage services, solid waste, roads and drainage.

It caused limited pumping of water, underperformance of water treatment plant due to ageing, water leakage, and low pumping capacity, which resulted in erratic pumping and distribution.

The city pumps adequate water from the abstraction point at the Zambezi River, but the biggest challenge is the distribution of water due to the lack of reservoirs, especially in high-lying areas like Mkhosana.

Mr Dube urged residents to use water sparingly, saying it is expensive to pump and purify water on a daily basis.

Source: Repairs solve water crisis in Victoria FallsRepairs solve water crisis in Victoria Falls (08/10/23)