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Tuesday 30 April 2024

NRZ defeated in battle for Victoria Falls complex

THE High Court has ordered the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) to surrender rentals collected from tenants at a complex in Victoria Falls following a protracted court battle with  Landela Safari Adventure (PVT) Limited.

Landela had filed a spoliatory and interdict relief before the High Court following the dispute with NRZ.

The safari operator cited NRZ, The Victoria Falls Trading Post (Private) Limited, Dedication Collections (Private) Limited and Victoria Falls Adventures (Private) Limited as respondents.

In his ruling, High Court judge Justice Siyabona Musithu said he found nothing in the lease agreement that specifically precluded the court from granting the relief that was being sought by Landela.

“The court finds the preliminary point devoid of merit and it is accordingly dismissed.  The applicant (Landela) was the majority shareholder in the second respondent (Victoria Falls Trading Post) and had exercised exclusive control of the entity for the past 20 years. The first respondent (NRZ) was a minority shareholder,” he said.

Justice Musithu also ruled that Landela had an interest in the affairs of the NRZ and could not stand by while matters deteriorate because of its fights with a fellow shareholder.

He said the tenants’ decision to pay  rentals as dictated by NRZ was in breach of the contract, adding that Landela could sue them.

“The fact that NRZ confirmed receiving rentals from some of the tenants, yet it accepts the existence of a lease agreement between the tenants and the second respondent is quite revealing,” he said.

The judge also called for the parties to respect the integrity of the arbitral process they submitted in the agreement.

Landela and the NRZ entered into a joint venture arrangement involving the affairs of The Victoria Falls Trading Post, Dedication Collections and Victoria Falls Adventure.

According to court papers, NRZ owns immovable properties in Victoria Falls and in terms of the agreement signed on November 27, 1998, the railway operator leased the properties to Landela.

The safari operator agreed to construct three houses and two lodges at its expense as consideration for the lease of the properties. 

The operator also agreed to develop a commercial centre on the same land with the NRZ as a development partner which entailed the acquisition of shares in The Victoria Falls Trading Post.

The arrangement gave birth to the Victoria Falls Trading Post in which the parties were the only shareholders.

The properties were leased to the company in terms of an agreement signed between the parties on October 8, 1999.

The lease had a tenure of eight years from the date of signing and there was an option to renew the lease for a maximum of two further periods of eight years and four months.

The commercial structures, which were set up by Landela, were to be rented out to third parties with parties to the agreement sharing the rental income at agreed ratios.

However, a dispute arose between the parties about the lease and shareholders agreement which was referred to arbitration by NRZ in terms of the constitutive documents.

Landela accused the NRZ of taking the law into its hands and locking the Victoria Falls Trading Post out of the administrative block at the commercial centre. 

The NRZ allegedly threatened to lock out some tenants from the premises while signing lease agreements with other tenants. Landela argued that NRZ,’s locking out of the Victoria Falls Trading Post, was contrary to the rule of law while undermining the lease, joint venture and the shareholder agreement.

It further argued that NRZ's conduct negated the arbitration proceedings which were underway, adding that it had bright prospects of success in the arbitration proceedings.

However, in its opposing papers, NRZ raised preliminary issues of locus standi, adding that Landela was never in possession of the premises. NRZ argued that the Victoria Falls Trading Post was given possession of two offices which it is occupying.

It also denied locking out the tenants arguing that the application for spoliation and interdict was a waste of time and misplaced.

Source: NRZ defeated in battle for Victoria Falls complexNRZ defeated in battle for Victoria Falls complex (30/04/24)

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Traditionalists perform a ceremony to mark the start of the Masuwe City project

A TRADITIONAL ceremony was held last Friday night at Jafuta Estate on the outskirts of Victoria Falls where Government officials met traditional leaders to mark the start of the implementation of the Masuwe City project.

President Mnangagwa is now expected to preside over a ground-breaking ceremony next month to mark the start of the project when Zimbabwe Cricket is expected to construct an international cricket stadium.

The traditional ceremony, which was held at night, culminated in a handover event on Saturday by Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Tongai Mnangagwa who was representing Minister Barbara Rwodzi.

Minister Rwodzi said the project is a significant milestone towards a US$5 billion Tourism and Hospitality Industry by 2025 and a step towards the achievement of Vision 2030.

Some traditional food and homemade beer were used as traditional leaders led in rituals and rites at the site to appease the ancestors to welcome the project.

This comes as the Government is working hard to implement the much-awaited Masuwe Special Economic Zone project in Victoria.

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 is part of the Integrated Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone. The area will be home to the cricket stadium.

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 the way for the implementation of the project. 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’s scope, the 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 in July 2020 following Government approval. Cabinet endorsed a final report for the project last 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, becoming the pacesetter on the mega project which is set to become a game-changer in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.

Between US$5 million and US$10 million will be invested mainly from grants from the International Cricket Council.

“Today marks the beginning of a very important project within our sports tourism cluster- the development of the International Cricket Stadium by Zimbabwe Cricket in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry supported by key stakeholders in a whole of government approach,” said Minister Rwodzi.

“Our meeting today is an important step in the commencement of development works on the Jafuta Estate covering 271.5 Hectares situated within the Masuwe Government of Zimbabwe-designated Special Economic Zone.”

Minister Rwodzi said the Government, working with other players is developing an integrated tourism resort to improve the tourism infrastructure in Victoria Falls.

“We are also enhancing and diversifying tourism through developing tourism and business facilities that blend with the natural environment, thus promoting ecotourism,” she said.

Minister Rwodzi said the cricket stadium is part of the integrated tourism resort that will accommodate a central business district, medical tourism facility, golf estate, civic centre, holiday homes, hotels, villas, international finance centre, a tourism school and conference facilities, as well as a multi-purpose sports facility.

She said the Government’s strategy is for local communities to become both the drivers and beneficiaries of the growth in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The minister said Zimbabwe Cricket has become a key factor in sports tourism growth.

“We thank Zimbabwe Cricket for this innovative approach to growing sports tourism in Zimbabwe, which will have a positive impact on our economy. As we embark on this exciting sports tourism journey, we urge all stakeholders, including tourism boards, industry associations, and local communities, to support and embrace this initiative,” she said.

Minister Rwodzi said the next step is the laying of the foundation stone by President Mnangagwa in May

Tourism is a key pillar contributing about 12 percent to the gross domestic product. The Masuwe Estate project will create job opportunities and improve citizens’ livelihoods.

“We thank traditional leaders and all stakeholders for supporting this sports tourism development programme. Our focus is on making tourism a key sector for economic growth and development in Zimbabwe particularly in changing the livelihoods of our local communities through new strategies in the ministry that focus on growing rural tourism, and gastronomy tourism, among others,” said Minister Rwodzi.

“We are convinced that this collaboration between Zimbabwe Cricket with the ministry and its agencies will attract new tourism markets and contribute to the sustainable development of our tourism industry for the benefit of our people.”

Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo commended the Government for honouring traditional leaders.

“Involving traditional leaders is in line with the spirit and policy thrust of the Second Republic which seeks to ensure that we leave no one and no place behind in matters of national development. We look forward to investments that will benefit the community, province and the country at large and ultimately boost tourism growth,” he said.

Acting Chief Mvuthu, Mr Bishop Matata Sibanda said the community was humbled by the honour bestowed on their forefathers.

“This is not just an event, but an expression of our values and beliefs. It is important to honour our forefathers. As a community, we welcome the project as shown by our facilitation and participation at this traditional ceremony,” he said.

Chiefs Mvuthu and Whange represented the five chiefs in Hwange District. —@ncubeleon

Source: Traditionalists perform a ceremony to mark the start of the Masuwe City project (23/04/24)

Saturday 20 April 2024

Uproar as Zimparks seals off Vic Falls …tourists barred to make way for private event

(20th April 2024) 

The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks) sealed off the rainforest nestled at the heart of Victoria Falls from the public on Monday this week to make way for a private event, triggering outrage from residents and tourism players in the resort town.

The ZimParks announcement, 

shared on social media on 10th April 2024 at 4.45 pm.

Destination Wedding Planners (DWP), acclaimed as the largest destination wedding planners, hosted the event in partnership with RSVP, a local event planning group as part of a three-day summit which ran from Monday to Wednesday this week.

Local residents and tour operators took exception after Zimparks advised the public that the rainforest in the Victoria Falls National Park will be “temporarily closed to the public because of a special event happening in the park on Monday 15 April 2024 from 16:00 hours onwards” and advised them to adjust their travel plans.

“I am writing as a private Zimbabwean citizen and Victoria Falls resident in regard to the Zimparks notice of closure of Victoria Falls today, from 1600 hours, to all visitors, for a 'Special Event',” renowned wildlife and environment painter Larry Benjamin Norton wrote to Zimparks area manager Marvelous Mbikiyana in a letter dated April 15.

“Obviously many tourists have tightly pre-planned itineraries, set months in advance, that are disrupted by this surprising private arrangement announced last week. To reiterate, the issue I refer to is the closure of the entire Victoria National Park for a private function.”

Norton, who is locked up in a fierce legal dispute with Zimparks over its decision to award Adage Success and Scanner Investments rights to set up commercial enterprises at the heart of the Victoria Falls, challenged the authority to explain the rationale of barring the park from the public.

The High Court is yet to hand down a judgement on the case which was filed two years ago.

Norton’s letter reads: “As custodians of our foremost national monument, and world heritage site, can Zimparks issue any public explanation or clarification on this event? What is the criteria that qualifies a private individual or operator for the right to take over/hire this venerated world heritage site for any period of time?

“Zimparks are the constitutional custodians of this fragile world heritage site and they serve the people of Zimbabwe by protecting our wild and natural places. Is there no contradiction between this role and the current commercialisation of this fragile place?”

 As part of a running investigation by the Zimbabwe Independent, the publication also sought to understand how much Zimparks charged and the amount of money that was generated from the private event.

ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo claimed that this was not the first time the area had been barred from the public to make way for a private event which he said was part of the authority’s money-spinning venture.

“Private individuals are allowed to book the rainforest to host private functions. It has happened before; it is not the first time. Normally our VIP entrance get fee is US$150 per individual for international tourists and US$75 for regional tourists while local tourists pay US$35,” he told the Independent.

“It is a premium destination. We are trying to run a business. This is part of commercialisation. All we want is money and it is also part of promoting destination Zimbabwe. This private function included 350 guests from across the globe. The organisers of this event wanted the whole day, but considering how busy this place is it was not possible. We had to settle for two hours. We took two weeks to notify our partners that we were going to close the rainforest for two hours. They paid their entrance fee and that is what we got.”

Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Barbra Rwodzi said she was “out of the country until next week."

Tapiwa Makoti told the Independent that RSVP first approached DWP in 2022 to lobby for Zimbabwe to host the meeting and “went through a bidding process that included a few site visits” and the country was announced as the winning bidder in September 2023.

“The event had up to 350 delegates, both local and international. These numbers included local and international suppliers and vendors within the industry as well as the world’s top 100 planners and industry gurus and other luxury wedding planners from over 50 countries,” Makoti said.

“The event was only held in the Rainforest for less than two hours from 4pm. The rest of the day tourists were allowed in and out of the rainforest as usual. The delegates were all at Lookout Cafe before sunset and before the closing time of the Rainforest. The Parks and Wildlife Authority were very clear that tourists were not to be inconvenienced.

“The impact of tourism for Zimbabwe is invaluable with positive feedback from the best in the global industry, with many already discussing potential destination weddings and other events happening at various venues and hotels within Victoria Falls this year.”

The congress,which ran under the theme "It is Time for Africa", was attended by delegates from USA,South Africa,France,Zimbabwe,Italy,India,Turkey and France.

The event,which was hosted in Zimbabwe and Africa for the first time is billed by its promoters to spruce up the southern African country's battered image and boost tourism revenue.

In recent years, Victoria Falls has come under Unesco’s spotlight over its ecological and conservation state due to commercial enterprises sprouting in the resort town.

In 2022, Unesco flagged that the world spectacle could potentially be stripped of its world heritage status due to individual activities and cumulative effect of infrastructure projects.

 Source: Uproar as Zimparks seals off Vic Falls …tourists barred to make way for private event (19/04/24)

See also: Mixed Sentiments Over The Reason Why Victoria Falls Was Closed (16/04/24)

Friday 5 April 2024

500MW solar plant to turn Vic Falls into smart city

VICTORIA Falls is moving closer to becoming a smart tourism and green destination following plans to construct a renewable energy exhibition park and a 500MW solar plant which will be complemented by a tidal river plant on the Zambezi River.

Southpole Consulting, an international firm that was given Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status by the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida), is implementing the project.

Land measuring 300 hectares near the Victoria Falls International Airport has since been identified for the solar farm project.

Once the 500MW come on stream, they will boost Zimbabwe’s quest to attain energy self-sufficiency.

Critically, the power will improve availability of energy for both domestic and industrial users who are presently affected by load shedding due to low water levels in Lake Kariba.

Solar energy is equally important as it comes at a time when the world is calling for reduction in the use of thermal electricity to tackle the effects of climate change.

When Zimbabwe completed the expansion of Hwange Power Station, where 600MW were added through a US$1,4 billion facility from China, there was a jump in electricity supply, only for low water levels in Lake Kariba due to El Nino forcing a huge decline in power generation.

A combination of the Victoria Falls 500MW and the newly built 600MW from Hwange, plus the electricity from the other six units and from Independent Power Producers, should take Zimbabwe closer to energy self-sufficiency.

Southpole Consulting’s director of special projects, Engineer Tendai Tidings Musasa, said the multi-million-dollar project is expected to be launched on June 3, marking the start of the pilot stages.

Eng Musasa said Southpole Consulting is working closely with the Zambezi River Authority for the tidal river plant project since it holds rights as part of the planned US$4,5 billion Batoka Gorge Hydro Electric Project.

Once implemented, the project will be a huge milestone for Victoria Falls, a city declared a Special Economic Zone and International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).

Already another 100MW solar farm is under construction with solar panels laid out for the initial 25MW phase as Victoria Falls inches closer to becoming a smart city, leveraging on partnerships between the Government and the private sector.

Source: 500MW solar plant to turn Vic Falls into smart city (03/04/24)