Zimbabwe: Illegal gold panning destroying tourism

via Zimbabwe: Illegal gold panning destroying tourism – eTurboNews.com May 04, 2014

Illegal gold panning activities are taking a toll on the flora and fauna in the scenic district of Shurugwi, destroying the latent tourism the district is endowed with.

With the imminent closure of Zimasco Mine — which used to spur business growth in Shurugwi town — tourism appeared destined to become the mainstay of the district’s future development.

Entering the mining town from either side of the highway along the Zvishavane/Masvingo-Gweru road there are billboards inscribed “Welcome to Scenic Shurugwi”.

Those that would be visiting this town for the first time might anticipate seeing a plethora of scenically attractive spots —but this is not the case — these are just old billboards overtaken by events. Shurugwi’s scenery has gone to the dogs.

The district is endowed with an array of natural resources which make it one of the few places in the country with a huge tourism potential.

“It seems soon there won’t be any Shurugwi scenery to talk about. Gold panning is indeed a big menace and threat to the environment and tourism in Shurugwi,” said Henry Gireya Banda who used to live in Shurugwi in the 1980s.

“The advent of illegal gold panners [makorokoza] is a menace to those who might want to be sight-seeing in hills, botanic and valleys as some of them [illegal gold panners] are die-hard thugs who would not have a feeling when harming others.”

In its heyday, Shurugwi boasted a number of scenic tourist resorts, with natural attractions and huge tourism potential in the Boterekwa valley.

Besides the famous Boterekwa valley, there are many tourist spots dotted around the mineral-rich district, which include Ferny Creek Botanical Gardens, Bonza Ruins, Danraven Falls and Peak View among others.

A recent survey carried out by The Standard showed that all these tourist resorts have been neglected, with infrastructure now virtually white-elephants. Illegal gold panners have taken over the land and are foraging for the precious mineral at the expense of flora and fauna.

Ferny Creek, which is to the north-east of the town, was popular with tourists in the early 1980s attracting a large chunk of foreign tourists.

Today, the place has overgrown grass that shields the little botanic that’s left. The swimming pool and other infrastructure at the place have fallen apart. Ferny Creek was home to Zimbabwe’s national flower the Flame Lily (Amakukhulume in Ndebele or Kajongwe in Shona).

A stone’s throw away from the botanical gardens was once a 19-hole golf course which was turned over by chrome mining company — Zimasco. The golf course which was popular with tourists and hosted high profile tournaments is now just a heap of earth.

Boterekwa valley, which was famous for freshwater streams and various plant species used to attract a large number of tourists every year, but today the land has been turned up-side-down by illegal gold panners and the water is polluted.

“The efforts required to make Shurugwi attractive for tourists is lacking. During our time in the Shurugwi Town Council we talked about it [tourism] but nothing tangible came out since we were focused mainly on service provision after we took over a debt-ridden council in 2008,” said Bulle Madzitire, former Shurugwi Town Council chairman.

He said the local authorities (Shurugwi Town Council and Tongogara Rural District Council) were sitting on their laurels with nothing to offer in terms of reviving tourism in the district.

However, Tongogara Rural District Council chief executive officer, Addington Munyoro said his council’s efforts to embark on tourism projects in 1998 hit a brick wall due to illegal gold mining and the Land Reform programme.

“In 1998 council identified the following tourism projects — Reitfortein Ranch and Boterekwa Range which covers 3 425 hectares as well as the 3 000-hectare Gwenhoro Game Park,” said Munyoro.

“Shurugwi is a mineral-rich district, hence most of its land is covered with mining claims. The mining activities especially gold panning affected the Boterekwa project. The Land Reform programme also led to the abandonment of the Gwenhoro Game Park.”

He said Tongogara Rural District Council identified a local partner in 2008 to fund the tourism projects after failing to get funding from the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).

Munyoro said council failed to raise funds needed for the Gwenhoro Game Park project which had an initial high capital cost which included fencing of at least 26km, construction of access roads, procurement of game animals and accommodation facilities for the workers.

The failure by the local authorities to promote tourism and associated services in the scenic valleys and other tourist spots has drawn criticisim from locals. They said tourism in the district had lost its attractiveness due to lack of synergies between local authorities and tourism establishments.

“Government and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority must work with councils to improve basic infrastructure so that tourists make it to these destinations. Hotels, guesthouses and motels must be established to accommodate visitors,” said Wedson Chirwa, a resident.

“Some sites in Boterekwa could be chosen as camping areas for tourists to access the valleys and waterfalls in Boterekwa.”

Most of the infrastructure in Shurugwi is very old. The only hotel in the town centre — Grand Hotel — now operates as a bar while some sections of the hotel have been leased out to Small-to-Medium Enterprises.

Tourism contributes 10% to the GDP and government is planning to grow the tourism contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 15% by 2015.



  • comment-avatar
    Mlimo 9 years ago

    I know the place well with many a happy memory but when you let zanupf in and indigenisation and all the rest the land called Zimbabwe has fallen into total disrepair and lawlessness. In my day you needed a prospecting licence to look for gold there today it’s a free for all. I don’t blame the desperate people looking to find a living just the government and mugabe

    • comment-avatar
      roving ambassador. 9 years ago

      Yes Mlimo, it is Zanu ‘s lack of management skills ,lack of vision. It is too much to expect a 90 year old to plan for the future when his grave stone is surely opening up.
      Looters and pillagers,Zanu

      • comment-avatar
        roving ambassador. 9 years ago

        Kutongwa nerufu.

      • comment-avatar
        Petal 9 years ago

        Kamuzu Banda here we come!! a friend jokingly says how they remember the footage on television when Banda slipped and nearly fell and was quickly assisted by an aide!!

  • comment-avatar

    Zanu and Mugabe are destroying tourism, Gold panners are eking out a living with no thought for the environment/tourism or any thing else. They are hungry and have no guidance from the authorities. Get rid of Mugabe and get some true visionaries and leaders and these things will change.

  • comment-avatar
    Tongoona 9 years ago

    The government of today is more of a fire fighting government, lacks foresight and initiative, good for destruction and clueless about problem solving. It is not the age of the president to blame but the team around him which is more learned than educated, more corrupt than virtuous, more confused than informed, more selfish than selfless.
    Advancing illegal mining activities is an economic suicide just as much as lawlessness is unproductive. Basically we an survive as a country on agriculture, tourism and legal mining. Government is to blame for failing to provide employment to the nation hence the youth are doing everything possible to survive. Illegal mining destroys agriculture, tourism and destroys itself. Government must come up with realistic projects not invisible and partisan projects like ZinmAset.