Kigali — South African tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe have declined sharply by about half — and the weak rand was to blame, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has said.
Source: SA tourism to Zim down sharply – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 19, 2016
Mzembi told News24 in an interview on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Kigali, Rwanda, over the weekend that Zimbabwe used to have about 2,1 million tourists arrivals in the country, of which almost 1,5 million were South African.
“It went down by almost 50%, and that is not assisting (the struggling economy),” he said of the economic situation in the country.
“The bullish United States dollar has made Zimbabwe as a destination uncompetitive for South Africans and anyone not using US dollars,” he said.
Mzembi said Zimbabwe’s economy “has been gliding through a recession some time” on the back of declining productivity as well as the “bullish” US dollar — which is the main currency in use in Zimbabwe.
He said 70% of Zimbabwe’s imports were from South Africa, and 77,8% of its exports went through the country and about two million lived in South Africa “as part of our Diaspora”.
“You can’t disregard or wish away umbilical relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mzembi said recent measures by Zimbabwe to curb imports from South Africa were adopted to arrest the country’s decline in productivity, but he admitted the measures “could have been conceived better”.
He said, for instance, the ban on the importation of South African goods that were also being manufactured in Zimbabwe also counted for ordinary travellers carrying household goods, and these have now been exempted.
“You want to allow space for the travelling public to be able to import within duty remit,” he said.
Other issues related to the ban, including the concerns raised by small traders who protested against it earlier this month, would be discussed “on a bureaucratic” level with South Africa’s trade and industry department, he said.
Asked how the country would deal with traders exporting goods from South Africa to other countries via Zimbabwe, Mzembi said the implementation of this still needed to be finalised.
“All the unintended consequences have been acknowledge. The current exercise is to review and smoothen the implementation,” he said.
“If there are any issues that need to be escalated at a political level, politicians will be engaged,” he said, adding that it wasn’t at this stage yet.