Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls -

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Zimbabwe's ‘Disneyland’ At Victoria Falls Gets Beijing Investment

Zimbabwe just got one step closer to its dream of building a “Disneyland in Africa,” at the site of Victoria Falls, one of the world's biggest waterfalls. Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi tells Newsweek that the country has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Chinese investors to carry out a feasibility study and draw up a masterplan for the project, first proposed in 2013 as a $300 million-park with hotels, entertainment parks and restaurants.

Mzembi says that the project will contribute to building a $5 billion tourism industry in Zimbabwe by 2020. That would mean a five-fold increase on 2016's figures, when the government stated 2016 that tourism was worth $1 billion.

The United States, European Union and others imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe following the implementation of its controversial land reform program in 2000—which included the forcible seizure of white-owned farms—and Mzembi says that had a devastating effect on tourism.

However, the minister believes that Zimbabwe’s standing in the international community has now improved, and that the Victoria Falls project can help to revamp its image. “Tourism is a peace sector and tourism is a peace bridge. It has worked for us very well,” Mzembi tells Newsweek. “We are not the bad boy of the world in Zimbabwe any more, not at all.”

China is Africa’s single largest trade partner and has invested hugely in infrastructure projects on the continent, such as a $4 billion railway linking major cities in Kenya.

Relations between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe are close. During a 2015 visit to Zimbabwe, Xi signed multiple economic deals, including one for more than $1 billion of Chinese investment in Zimbabwe’s largest thermal power plant. That year China also canceled $40 million of debt owed by Zimbabwe; in response, Zimbabwe made the Chinese currency, the yuan, legal tender in the country.

Mzembi declines to identify the Chinese investors, but indicates that they would be from a state-run company. He also says that while the Chinese are carrying out the initial preparations, he has received “so many proposals running into billions and billions of dollars from potential investors,” including in the U.S., South Korea and the U.K. “We are not closing anybody out,” says Mzembi, while admitting that the Chinese have a “head start.”

The minister says that the project will focus around a modern conference center, with hotels hotels, villas and a museum also at the site. Victoria Falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so Mzembi says that construction will take place at a safe distance so as not to interfere with the natural features of the waterfall.

“It’s time to mobilize that destination and make it compete with other waterfall projects like Niagara, Iguazu and elsewhere,” says Mzembi. Niagara Falls is located on the U.S.-Canada border, while Iguazu Falls is on the border between Argentina and Brazil.

The project marks an attempt to rebrand the international image of Zimbabwe, which has been largely associated with economic malaise and authoritarian rule under President Mugabe, who has been in power since the country’s independence in 1980. Mugabe, 93, is standing in Zimbabwe’s next general election in 2018, despite widespread protests in recent months.

Zimbabwe’s economy is currently in a slump: Unemployment is high, and a crippling shortage of U.S. dollars prompted the reserve bank to start printing its own pseudo-currency—known as bond notes—in 2016. The country has not had its own currency since the Zimbabwean dollar became defunct in 2009 following a period of massive hyperinflation that meant the price of a loaf of bread rose to billions of dollars. The introduction of bond notes has raised fears that the country may be sliding towards another period of inflation.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe increased to 2.06 million in 2015, up from 1.88 million in 2014, according to the latest report from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. More than four out of five arrivals in Zimbabwe came from elsewhere in Africa, but the southern African country also has big tourism markets in the United States and United Kingdom.

Zimbabwe opened a new international airport at Victoria Falls in December 2016, which it expects to handle 1.5 million passengers per year.

The tourism ministry wants the area to become a “regional hub” for foreign visitors to southern Africa: Victoria Falls itself lies on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is also close to Botswana, which is popular with foreign tourists undertaking safaris.


More: Govt Says Signs 'Disneyland in Africa' Agreement With Chinese Funders (22/6/17)
   $460m Disneyland Vic Falls investor found (3/1/15)
   African 'Disneyland' still planned for Victoria Falls (22/6/14)
   Zimbabwe To Convert Victoria Falls Into Garden of Eden (3/9/13)
   Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (28/8/13)
   Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards (22/6/13)

Zim signs Victoria Falls 'Disneyland in Africa' deal with Chinese developers

The government has signed a comprehensive agreement with unnamed Chinese investors for the construction of its 'Disneyland in Africa', a tourism and conference theme park in the resort town of Victoria Falls, the tourism minister said on Wednesday.
In 2013, the impoverished southern African nation said it had set aside 300 hectares of land to build a state-of-the-art conference centre to house hotels, businesses, shopping malls, banks, exhibition and entertainment facilities such as casinos near the Victoria Falls International Airport.
The theme park, whose costs have been put at $460 million, is seen as crucial to rebranding the country dogged by perceptions of political volatility and human rights abuses, using the formula that has worked in California, Florida in the United States and Paris in France.
"We have signed an overarching agreement with some Chinese developers for a master plan to develop 300ha of land between the (Victoria Falls) airport and Masue River. We need to drive the convention business and direct traffic to ourselves," Mzembi told journalists at a press conference.
"Already we are looking at 2020 where we are dreaming of a $5 billion tourism sector in Victoria Falls alone." said Minister Mzembi.
Source: Govt Says Signs 'Disneyland in Africa' Agreement With Chinese Funders (22/6/17)
   Zimbabwe To Convert Victoria Falls Into Garden of Eden (3/9/13)
   Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (28/8/13)
   Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards (22/6/13)

Monday, 19 June 2017

'No more electricity cuts for Zimbabwe'

THE Government has assured the nation that the country will not be cut off by regional power suppliers after Zesa settled part of the debt it owed South Africa's Eskom and Mozambique's Hydro Cahora Bassa (HCB).

Last month the two regional power producers, especially Eskom threatened to switch off Zimbabwe if Zesa had failed to settle an outstanding power import bill of $43 million by 31 May.

The country which consumes an average 1 400MW daily against a generation capacity of 980MW, imports about 300kW from Eskom while HCB chips in with 50MW.

In an interview on the sidelines of the commissioning of Hwange Power Station (HPS) ash handling plant on Wednesday, Energy and Energy Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge said there was no need to worry about power shortages as the country has made the right arrangements to ensure that there is enough power.

"The impasse between us and our external suppliers of electricity was resolved, we made a substantial payment over the past weeks and we have agreed on payment terms for the remaining balance, our aim is to clear the debt," said Dr Undenge.

The minister, however, could not be drawn to reveal how much Zesa has paid to avert the situation. Due to foreign currency shortages, Zesa that had presented a payment plan which included paying $89 million between January and April failed to honour the agreement resulting in Eskom's threats to cut supplies. Zesa however, managed to pay $46 million with the payment plan including last year's arrears.

Dr Undenge described the electricity generation in the country as stable saying five units at Hwange Thermal Power Station were running, churning out 560MW with the sixth unit which was undergoing a major overhaul expected to be online in September.

"We are now at five units in service and today (Wednesday) we were producing 560MW which is quite commendable. We expect the resumption of Unit 6 which is going through a major overhaul to be back in service in September then we will further increase power generation.

"Yes, of course we have a deficit due to the fact that at Kariba Power Station the water levels are still low but improving. Last year our generation was limited to 285MW but the Zambezi River Authority increased our allocation of water so we are now producing at an average of 380MW," he said.

HPS has an installed capacity is 920 MW while Kariba Hydro is at 750 MW. Dr Undenge said the Government was prioritising local generation to reduce imports in the long run.

"Nationally we still have a deficit on a daily basis, the average is 1 500 MW but in winter that increases and that is the period we are in right now. We will supplement by importing from Eskom and Cahora Bassa to fill that deficit. We have been importing an average of 50MW from Hydro Cahora Bassa while from Eskom it varies. Our imports increase during the off peak period and we cut down during the peak period that's when we up our generation here."

Source: 'No more electricity cuts for Zimbabwe' (18/6/17)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

10 elephants poisoned with cyanide - Hwange, Zimbabwe

Nine adult elephants and one calf have been poisoned with cyanide around Zimbabwe’s largest wildlife area, the government’s Hwange National Park.

Four of the poisoned elephants died near the south of the Park and their tusks were taken.

The others, including a mother and her calf were found in two areas further north and may have been poisoned last weekend and the poachers had not yet returned to hack out the tusks from the dead animals

Trevor Lane from the Bhejane Trust, which monitors much wildlife activity in north western Zimbabwe, said early Tuesday that government rangers from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority were following up.

”Parks went out there quickly and energetically and I am sure they will make progress and produce results as they are very determined. The poachers left buckets with cyanide mixed with salt which have been recovered. We know some vultures will have been poisoned as well, but we are not yet sure how many

"We should expect more poaching this year because people are so poor in this bad economic situation.”
The first case of cyanide poisoning of elephants in Zimbabwe emerged in 2013 and about 100 corpses were found in the south of the park by hunters who took extensive photographs of the dead animals and then helped Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers follow up. 

Several poachers were arrested and were sentenced up to ten years in jail.

There were several other incidents of cyanide poisoning in that area since then, but Lane and others, such as elephant counter, Colin Gillies said cyanide poisoning had declined in the last year.

“I am very sad to hear about this latest incident. We hoped the cyanide episodes were over,” said Gillies, a leading member of Zimbabwe’s wildlife community who is also an official counter of Zimabwe’s elephant population in the west of the country.

Cyanide is widely used in the gold industry in Zimbabwe where miners use cyanide concentrate to catalyze the separation of pure gold from bulk ores during the chemical purification process.

Cyanide kills the body’s cells by starving them of oxygen. In mammals, the poison is most harmful to the heart and brain—organs that depend heavily on oxygen supplies. Elephants appear to die no more then about 100 m from where they drank poisoned water or used salt licks drenched in cyanide.

Elephants, according to wildlife experts die most painful deaths from cyanide. There are tens of thousands of informal gold miners in Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Passenger killed as tourism vehicle hits elephant, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter, The Chronicle

ONE person died and the other was injured when their vehicle hit an elephant in Victoria Falls, police confirmed.

The vehicle hit the jumbo which then fell onto the roof of the vehicle trapping the two.

Officer commanding Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiwona identified the deceased as John Obester Banana (44) who died on his way to Bulawayo on Friday where he had been transferred following the accident that occurred on Thursday night.

Mr Banana and the driver Mr Benard Munapo (48) employed by Pamusha Lodge, were coming from a boat cruise on the Zambezi River when the accident occurred.

It could not be established where Mr Banana hails from as police said investigations were still in progress, although his next of kin had been notified.

“I can confirm that we received a report of two people who were involved in an accident along Park Way near waterworks. Mr Benard Munapo (48) who is employed by Pamusha Lodge was driving a Toyota Regius belonging to the lodge with a passenger John Obester Banana when he hit an elephant,” said Chief Supt Chiwona.

He said Mr Munapo failed to avoid a herd of elephants resulting in the accident.
Some motorists rescued the two and rushed them to Victoria Falls District Hospital where they were admitted.

Mr Banana was transferred to Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo because of his condition but died along the way.

Source: One killed as elephant falls on vehicle (13/06/17)

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Four nabbed for killing impala

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

FOUR people employed at a local lodge in Victoria Falls have been arrested after they allegedly trapped an impala using a wire snare while on duty.

The four; Bongani Mathe, Elias Sibanda, both of Chinotimba as well as Ephraim Marevangepo and Trynose Mpala both of Mkhosana suburb, were arrested on Wednesday afternoon at their workplace.
The four work at Zambezi Wilderness Safaris jetty club which is run by Ilala Lodge on the edge of the Zambezi River. Mathe, Sibanda, Marevangepo and Mpala were charged with trapping an animal using a class one wire snare, which is a violation of a section of the Parks and Wildlife Act.

The four were supposed to appear in court yesterday to answer to the charge but the case was not heard as prosecutors referred the docket back to the police. Prosecutors said they had noted some anomalies in the docket and said further investigations were necessary. The four, who were represented by Mr Givemore Mvhiringi, of Mvhiringi and Partners, will be summoned to court once investigations are complete.

According to state documents, Mathe, Sibanda, Marevangepo and Mpala were on duty when an anti-poaching patrol team arrived at Zambezi Wilderness Safaris jetty club where game meat was found in a disused building. The anti-poaching team was acting on a tip off from an informer who alleged he had spotted a person carrying an impala carcass around the docking area

“When an anti-poaching team arrived at the scene, they found game meat in a box that was in a disused toilet,” read the state outline.

Source: Four nabbed for killing impala (10/06/17)

Vic Falls bridge under threat


THE Livingstone Tourism Association (LTA) has asked Government to consider closing the Victoria Falls bridge to heavy trucks following heavy flow of traffic that has potential to reduce the lifespan of the facility.

And LTA chairman Alexander Munthali expressed concern at the continued congestion caused by heavy trucks at the Victoria Falls border post in Livingstone. Speaking during a media briefing in Livingstone, Mr Munthali said the Victoria Falls border post has been turned into a truck parking yard because the queue of heavy trucks increases daily.

“We need the trucking business but we do not need it in the middle of the city or at our border entry points like Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border as is the case. “A by-pass is required to take truck traffic from the west coming from Kazungula to the north of the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport to intersect the Lusaka road at the weighbridge area,” he said.

He said the by-pass must be a toll road which can collect revenue from trucks for road maintenance.

Mr Munthali said the iconic structure was not built to contain heavy traffic as is the case presently. “The bridge will get damaged and this will be another huge cost for the government. Besides, the recent situation at the border has already instigated different views as circulation on social media is increasing over the issue,” he said.

Source: Vic Falls bridge under threat (10/06/17)