HARARE – Senators have called on central government to expeditiously provide financial resources for construction of a new airport in Kariba and upgrade its tourist facilities to international standards.
They said given the strategic role of tourism to the country’s economic development, both as a major foreign currency earner and source of employment, the decline of Kariba Town as a tourist destination has concomitantly led to unacceptable high unemployment levels in the resort.
Senator Sikelela Gumpo raised the motion, expressing concern at delays in the construction of a new airport in Kariba, which is critical for revival of the tourism industry in the town. He said he was further concerned by the decline in the wild animal population which is a major tourist attraction to the resort town.
He called upon the government to expeditiously provide financial resources for construction of a new airport in Kariba and upgrading of tourist facilities to international standards and control the movement of wild animals into Kariba Town and poaching activities.
He proposed the designation of Kariba Town as a Special Economic Zone in order to unlock its great economic potential.
“Tourism was a major foreign currency earner for Kariba and Zimbabwe at large but now tourism and fishing industries are facing major challenges in Kariba,” Gumpo said.
“Madam President, Kariba is grossly underutilised as a tourism destination and a major fishing industry in Zimbabwe. In the past, Kariba used to earn very substantial foreign currency earnings for the country. The fishing industry was booming at one stage and all that has become a thing of the past.
“One of the reasons being that the two industries have not been given adequate attention that is required, to make them continue to play an important role in the support of the economy of the country.”
The senator claimed the imposition of the “economic sanctions over Zimbabwe in the early year 2000 resulted in the immediate decline in tourism in the area, driving the industry to a standstill.”
“There was a very rapid decline in the tourist arrivals. The situation forced a good number of hotels, lodges and other facilities to close shop, thus rendering thousands of employees out of employment,” Gumpo said.
“The closure of the Kariba airport that followed made the already bad situation worse. Dialogue on the matter was initiated between government and stakeholders on these two industries but it did not succeed because of poor communication and funding.”
He said at one stage, Kariba was above the Buffalo Range proposed airport re-development on the government’s priority list, “this position has since changed without giving reasons for the U-turn.”
“How could Buffalo Range be prioritised over Kariba?” he asked rhetorically.
He said the animal population around Kariba is slowly but surely disappearing.
“These animals are the source of tourism and something needs to be done to arrest this decline sooner or later. The two industries fall under one ministry which is a very ideal position in that things can be done under one roof,” he said.
“Mahombekombe, which is the oldest township in the tourist town has shanty housing schemes which were built by an Italian company called the Impresit during the initial dam construction. They were built as temporary shelters to accommodate the short-term hired company workforce,” he said.
He said the residential structures are located under the main powersupply lines that carry the high voltage energy from the power station.
“A disaster could easily occur if one of the voltage lines breaks and falls over the inhabitants. The ministries of Local Government, Energy and Power Development and Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry need to avoid this pending disaster.
The said housing scheme is located in the tourist boat harbour zones and such a situation paints a bad image of the country and the tourism industry in Kariba,” he said.
“The Energy and Power Development ministry that owns the high voltage infrastructure needs to assure the residents that they are not being affected by radiation from the overhead transmission lines.”
He said Victoria Falls has been allowed to overshadow the potential of Kariba as a tourist destination, yet the two destinations should be complementary as it was in the past.
“Airlines from Victoria Falls should fly via Kariba. They are currently by-passing Kariba and this is exactly what has partly killed Kariba as a tourist destination. Victoria Falls and Kariba are already connected by the lake and the Zambezi River, thus forming one tourist region.
“Would it not make it more economically feasible to treat Victoria Falls and Kariba as one and give the two a one economic zone status?
Madam President, Kariba used to receive 150 000 tourists annually in 1998. The numbers have declined drastically.”
Senator Joseph Chirongoma rose to support the motion.
“Kariba is a large water body; it is among the three biggest man-made lakes in Zimbabwe. A lot of visitors used to come to visit Kariba.
They were coming to visit the lake and to conduct boating activities on the water. They were quite merry and that shows that Zimbabwe has its own tourist attractions,” he said.
“If you want to see all the types of animals come to Kariba, they are there. People would fly into Zimbabwe merely to see animals. The animals would even go as far as the hotels where the visitors would have easy access to them. This area should be propped up and it should remain viable. It also has fisheries.”
He said in Nyaminyami, a lot of professional game hunting was done.
“Professionals would come as far afield as England, Germany, Canada, France and other parts of the world to come and hunt,” he said. “After they would have hunted in the Nyaminyami, they would come to Kariba, stay there and they would visit around Kariba and see a lot of wild life. Besides its water body, there is also the mystic Nyaminyami fish.
“In conclusion, I would want to say that those that are into the ‘kapenta’ industry would also come and catch matemba and the matemba would be distributed throughout the country, as a result of that, it calls that Kariba should be protected.”