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Friday 24 May 2024

Concerns grow over costs and impacts of controversial Victoria Falls Cricket Stadium proposal

(24th May 2024)

Keep Victoria Falls Wild

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: President Mnangagwa yesterday (23rd May 2024) laid the foundation stone to mark the beginning of work on the construction of the controversial Mosi-oa-Tunya International Cricket Stadium in Victoria Falls, part of an ambitious government drive to develop a US$5 billion national tourism economy by 2025 (The Chronicle, May 2024).

The 10,000 seater stadium is to be developed by Zimbabwe Cricket in preparation for the 2027 World Cup which will be jointly hosted by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The construction of the stadium will apparently be funded with a grant of "between US$5 million and US$10 million" from the International Cricket Council, although no final estimate of the total cost of the development has been announced, and no developer has yet been identified to undertake the construction, which is proposed to include the construction of a playing field, practice nets, scoreboards, broadcast and media centre, changing rooms, hospitality facilities, grandstand and other spectator areas"

Victoria Falls proposed Masuwe SEZ development

Concept design for the proposed Victoria Falls Cricket Stadium

The stadium is part of the Government initiative to lure investment in the development of the Masuwe Special Economic Zone, a 1,200 site within virgin woodland and part of the Jafuta-Masuwe Estate located about 10 kilometres south of Victoria Falls.

To facilitate the development of the Masuwe Special Economic Zone the Government established the Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company (Pvt) Ltd (MoTDC Ltd), a State enterprise company, as an investment vehicle for the development and transferring ownership of 274 hectares to the company for the first phase of the project. 

Its nine-member board, chaired by Mrs Shiela Sidambe, was appointed in 2021 and was given the mandate "to deliver infrastructure development in Victoria Falls by expediting feasibility studies for bulk infrastructure and appropriate diligence to register the company’s presence with a solid brick and mortar project" (, August 2021). The government expects that the company to deliver on its mandate in the lifespan of the National Development Strategy (NDS1, 2021 to 2025).

Without the necessary funds to develop the ambitious project the MoTDC Ltd offered Old Mutual Life Assurance, Zimbabwe, the exclusive lease of over 55 hectares within the development, with Old Mutual Life Assurance in return agreeing to undertake a financial feasibility study for the wider project, calculated to cost a precise US$430,948.29 (yes, that's 29 cents). Their report conveniently concluded that the project would generate an "acceptable profit margin of US$57,696,447 which is 15.5 percent and 18.2 percent of gross development value and development cost, respectively" (The Sunday News, March 2023). Old Mutual first announced plans for the development of a four-star hotel, with 5,000-seater conference centre, medical facilities, a golf course and shopping mall in June 2021 (The Zimbabwe Mail, June 2021).

Victoria Falls proposed Masuwe SEZ development

Map showing area of the Mosi-oa-Tunya/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site and location of the proposed Masuwe Special Economic Zone development (click image for larger view).

In addition Zimbabwe Cricket were allocated 10 hectares of land for the construction of the international cricket stadium and supporting facilities on a 25-year lease basis.

Zimbabwe Cricket chairperson Tavengwa Mukhulani previously commented:

“We have somehow found favour with the Victoria Falls Town Council who have given us a piece of land which we think is ideal to develop a stadium. Our focus is to decentralise cricket and to make it available and accessible to the fans. We don’t want a Midlands fan to travel to Harare to watch a player from Midlands. You want them to watch that player in their backyard; it stimulates interest and just helps grow the game.” (, May 2024)

The comments appear to ignore that Victoria Falls is isolated from the major urban areas and rest of Zimbabwe due to poor maintenance of the country's transport infrastructure - with no public services by rail and the main transport road in urgent need of upgrade.

The proposals follow failed attempts by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) to raise investors to build a rugby stadium at Victoria Falls in 2018 and similarly unrealised plans for a F1 Grand Prix circuit (The Chronicle, July 2021).

Foundation stone for the unrealised Grand prix circuit development

Foundation stone for the unrealised Grand prix circuit development
(click image for larger view).

A Hard Sell

Barbara Rwodzi, the Tourism minister, was recently in South Africa trying to tempt further investors.

"Since she was appointed, Rwodzi said she had been running around to make use of the allocated land. 'I have 261 hectares now. Ten hectares have gone to Cricket Zimbabwe to build this stadium with its amenities, a three-star hotel and others,” the Tourism minister said.

“We are here, your government, with terms and conditions, which are quite flexible. My boss (Mnangagwa) told me it ‘is a special economic zone for lease for 25 years. But listen to the investor, talk to the investor and always come to us and discuss if there are any adjustments that need to be made’.

“We have vast land in Victoria Falls, 1,200 hectares in an area called Masuwe that is for Special Economic Zones for tourism only. Two hundred and seventy-one hectares is under the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry. It has a title deed. The 1,200 hectares used to belong to our ministry,” she added.

“It is ready land,” Rwodzi told the conference. No stories, no back and forth, I have the titled deed. The conversation starts and ends here.” (The Independent, May 2024)

Yet despite her best efforts, it appears that the Masuwe development project has so far failed to attract additional investors, with no further developments yet announced within the Masuwe development zone.

Development Costs

The development of the first phase of the Masuwe project, covering a total of 274 hectares and including the stadium and hotel facilities, will necessitate a significant expansion in the City's utilities infrastructure, with the construction of bulk water supply systems and the development of internal water, sanitation, roads and storm-water drains estimated to cost of US$120 million (The Sunday Mail, March 2023). There has yet to be any announcement on the funding or timescale for these works leaving residents wondering who will be picking up the bill. It is estimated that to maintain the cricket field alone will require 2,500 to 3,000 litres of water every day.

There are also transport infrastructure implications, with no train service to the Falls and the main road dangerous and in urgent need of repair. 

A second phase will see the development of services to the remaining 930 hectares at an estimated cost of approximately US$85 million.

The site of the proposed development - already cleared of trees and stripped of all biodiversity

Environmental Concerns

The proposed construction of the cricket stadium has come under criticism, with Joanah Mamombe, chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Environment, Wildlife, Tourism and Hospitality raising questions in the National Assembly over potential negative impacts on tourism and the Falls' World Heritage Status.

"Victoria Falls is renowned for its natural environment and wildlife. Our tourism industry is heavily reliant on nature-based attractions... There are many other cities in Zimbabwe that could host the stadium that has been proposed thereby distributing the economic benefits without sacrificing the environmental integrity... UNESCO heritage status is also at risk as we note that Victoria Falls was previously facing serious risks of losing the UNESCO world heritage due to the developments that threaten its natural state... Instead, we should explore alternative locations that do not compromise our valuable natural resources and conservation efforts" (, May 2024).

At the ground-break ceremony the President attempted to dismiss these concerns, making the extraordinary claim that the development would somehow 'enhance the natural heritage' of the Falls.

“This project, here in Victoria Falls, is most welcome as it will enhance the rich natural heritage associated with our premier resort city” (The Chronicle, May 2024).

The President also commented, rather ambiguously:

“Architectural designs and the built environment within the Masuwe Special Economic Zone and across the City of Victoria Falls should seamlessly blend with the natural environment, towards promoting sustainable tourism and socio-economic development” (The Chronicle, May 2024).

In promoting the development Zimbabwe Cricket envisage the construction "blending into the surrounding forest and connecting with the context of the resort town" (, May 2024).

UNESCO, however, are yet to comment on the proposals -  primarily due to the fact that Zimbabwean authorities have so far failed to formally notify them of the Masuwe project, or its potential impacts on the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site, which borders part of the development (Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs, May 2024).

Read the background to the Masuwe SEZ development on the Keep Victoria Falls Wild website 

Read more on the wave of tourism developments which currently threaten the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site on the Keep Victoria Falls Wild website and follow us on Facebook for latest updates.


The Zimbabwe Mail (June 2021) Old Mutual, Govt strike Vic Falls land deal for new hotel project, 2 June 2021.

The Chronicle (July 2021) Victoria Falls F1 circuit construction reaches major milestone. 2 July 2021. (August 2021) Minister appoints new Mosi Oa Tunya board, 30th August 2021.

The Sunday Mail (March 2023) Victoria Falls: US$200 million tourism project comes alive, 22 March 2023.

The Sunday News (March 2023) Govt okays Victoria Falls SEZ, 22nd March 2023

The Zimbabwe Independent (May 2024) Zim govt unveils plan for Vic Falls hospitality gems 10th May 2024. (May 2024) Parliament raises red flags on proposed Victoria Falls cricket stadium, 22nd May 2024

The Chronicle (May 2024) Victoria Falls cricket ground to broaden tourism products, 24th May 2014. (May 2024) Work begins on Victoria Falls’ Mosi-oa-Tunya International Cricket Stadium, 24 May 2024

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs (May 2024) Zimbabwe Government plans to develop Victoria Falls ignore impacts on World Heritage Site, 22nd May 2024

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