By Daniel Chigundu
THE construction of a Grand Prix stadium in Victoria Falls is going ahead despite opposition from various groups and individuals.
There are people and organisations reportedly fighting against the investment, which is arguably the biggest in the country’s tourism sector arguing that it is violating UNESCO rules on areas that would have been designated World Heritage Sites.
The Victoria Falls is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Zimbabwe.
A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having a cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance and is legally protected by international treaties.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke said the project is not only big for the country but will be also a first for the continent adding that they are aware of the UNESCO requirements and guidelines.
“This Grand Prix is not taking place anywhere near the UNESCO World Heritage Site, its 40 kilometres away from the Victoria Falls and about 20 kilometres away from the airport and this is not an area which will interfere with the movement of animals, it’s not, we are in tourism and we know exactly what we should be doing.
“That grand Prix we are going ahead, get it from me, we are going ahead and we will not abandon it, there is no Grand Prix in Africa as you know, there was one in South Africa which was heavily protested against under apartheid and it was closed.
“Now this is going to be the first one in Africa and how are we not going to be proud as Zimbabweans when we see the motor racing companies, world motor racing companies that you know all coming there,” he said.
Grand Prix is generally any of a series of motor-racing or motorcycling contests forming part of a world championship series, held in various countries under international rules.
Dr Kaseke added that when the motor racing is taking place, the event will attract as much as 9 000 international media and about 20 000 spectators both local and international.
He said the motor racing will be done about five times a year adding that “I will not for anything forego that, this will be a very big thing for this economy, it has never been done anywhere else and we want to say this is the thing that we have to do.
“Yes there are a lot of mafia organisations that are working against this investor, he is a very good guy, he is a very good investor, he has money, let me tell you it’s the truth he has money, he is not looking for anyone to borrow the money from he has the money.
“He is a Prince, he is from Nigeria, his father is a king in Nigeria, he is one of the richest kings in Nigeria, and he is a Prince by virtue of being born by a king and is a citizen of Dubai,” he said.
Noise from the stadium will not go out but it will be contained such that even people who will be driving from Victoria Falls to Hwange will not even hear it.
The ZTA boss said people are criticising the project without understanding the details and its importance to the country’s economy.
Government is trying to have Victoria Falls town developed into a world-class tourist destination hence it improved the airport to enable it to handle long-haul aircraft and went on to designate it into a special economic zone for the tourism sector.
Dr Kaseke said it was disappointing that even local players in Victoria Falls are using jealous to fight the investment the same way they did with Sun International which eventually went to Zambia after facing frustrations.
“I am telling you there are mafias who are working against this, some mafia who are working against this we will catch up with them, they will not go far and we also know that there are some operators in Victoria Falls who are against this investor, but they have always been like this, when Sun International wanted to put a structure in Victoria Falls, our operators became jealous and wrote all sorts of petitions everywhere, all over the world and he decided to go to Zambia.
“That structure in Zambia should have been on our side of the Victoria Falls, why do we become so jealous about other people if other people who were there before us were jealous as we are now we wouldn’t be there, it does not make sense but we are simply saying those who are jealous you will remain jealous but as government we will forge ahead.
“This investor is putting for the first time in Zimbabwe a seven-star 300 bedroomed hotel, he is from Dubai remember that is where is based and who cannot be happy by having a seven-star 300 rooms hotel as your part of your products that you will be selling.
The investor is also going to construct an international shopping mall that will have international brands, the Environmental Impact Assessment is currently underway and the preliminary report will come out at the end of September.
According to Dr Kaseke once the report is out construction will start immediately “and no one is going to stop that construction from going ahead, but we are only concerned about the mafia-style machinations against this investment but that does not worry us because the project was approved from the top by the President himself, and the Vice President was guest of honour at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s not Zimbabweans alone who are fighting against this but there are others who are coming from South Africa but we are the first to have a proper grand prix in Africa so why can’t we be proud?