By Daniel Chigundu
VICTORIA Falls City Council has been accused of frustrating local tourism investors who want to set up their businesses in arguably one of the busiest and most lucrative resort town in the country.
Victoria Falls boasts of the majestic Victoria Falls which is the world’s largest water curtain, is one of the world’s seven wonders and is a designated UNESCO world heritage site.
Owing to its world status, the Victoria Falls draws many tourists from across the world into the resort town creating potential business for investors.
However, delegates who attended the Matabeleland indaba organised by the Business Economic Empowerment Forum (BEEF) revealed that they are being denied the opportunity to enjoy the investment opportunity presented by the mighty falls.
In an interview, BEEF president Solomon Matsa said people are of the view that the Victoria Falls City Council favours foreign investors at the expense of locals.
“Some challenges highlighted, include delays at the airport where tourists come in to get their visas, the other issues is that the council in Victoria Falls does not seem to be promoting locals or blacks to be more specific as tourism investors.
“They don’t want to give their own people who are really interested in the industry space or land to develop projects they seem to be more focused on external people to give them land to build infrastructure for tourism and many other activities.
“The other issues which was a major one is that us as Zimbabweans there is not even one black person who has got a Zambezi Riverfront facility whether it’s for weddings, lodges, or whatever, every time you go there they give you many reasons to try not allow that to happen but we are surprised to see white-owned companies being given the opportunity to build lodges but when we go there they say policy and many other fun reasons they are always giving,” he said.
Government buoyed by the new dispensation is in the process of trying to lure investment into the country and President Emmerson Mnangagwa on his famous mantra of Zimbabwe is open for business has revealed that both local and foreign investors are welcome into the country.
Victoria Falls is expected to attract more tourists going forward following the construction of the new Victoria Falls International Airport capable of handling long-haul aircraft and also with the possibility of it being transformed into a regional tourism hub.
There is potential that the airport is likely to see the introduction of direct long-haul air services from Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East which are some of the country’s top markets for arrivals making it lucrative for investors.
To further encourage investment in the area, the government went further to designate it as one of the special economic zones where investors enjoy tax rebates and many other advantages.
Meanwhile, the BEEF boss (Matsa) said the indabas are not only focused on Matabeleland Region only or on tourism but will also look into other sectors of the economy and the indaba held at Cresta Sprayview in Victoria Falls is the first launch of the indabas.
“So it’s not that we are just focusing to Matabeleland but we asked Matabeleland people what are the two major topics they would want us to share on and find solutions and they suggested that we do hospitality of the tourism industry and mining industry that is why we started with that but we are going to cover all industries which affect people going forward.
“We are going to be picking up issues from each session we are going to have and put that in an executive report which we are going to send to active ministries and even to the President of the country.
“This is because we want the government or our principals to tap into this knowledge that would have gotten from the grassroots and use it in making rules and policies.
The BEEF president revealed that they are already in consultation with government and that they have written a few papers highlighting challenges they are seeing in different areas of business.
He said the “communication between us and government is continuous and we are writing things to them every month which we feel they need to know,” he said.
BEEF is an organisation that was created in November last year by Zimbabweans in the business sector for the purposes of ensuring that there is empowerment, there is integrity, accountability and there is honesty in the communities where its members are doing business.
The organisation said the country’s economy collapsed during the previous dispensation due to lack of integrity and accountability which resulted in people focusing more on doing deals than following the dictates of corporate governance.
Matsa said, “people were doing deals but we want to phase out the deal-culture and we want to move into a proper corporate culture so that when you start a business you have a long-term vision of what you want to achieve”.