The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube , Victoria Falls Reporter
THE Government has made significant infrastructural developments in Victoria Falls despite the Covid-19 pandemic with a number of properties having been built in the past two years in line with the vision to make the tourist destination a conference capital.
Victoria Falls was declared a city in December 2019 becoming the first in the province and in Matabeleland region after Bulawayo metropolitan. President Mnangagwa conferred the status to the city.
Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conference capital and has since approved the Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
There are plans to come up with Masue City on the outskirts of the Victoria Falls City and Batoka City on the Zambezi gorges, which buttresses the combined development of Matabeleland North as a key component for transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy.
The new developments will come with state-of-the-art facilities ranging from five to seven-star hotels, recreational, banking and sporting facilities and Government is courting investors. The Victoria Falls Stock Exchange was also opened last year to attract foreign direct investment and business into the city.
In an interview yesterday, Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini said there was an investment appetite in the country’s tourism destination.
“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Victoria Falls has grown rapidly in terms of infrastructure development such as new businesses, hotels and lodges.
We have got quite a number of them such as The Palm River Hotel which is due for opening next week, Victoria Falls Pioneers Lodge which has been completed and waiting for opening, residential flats for bookings, town houses being built behind Far School, Mbano Manor Hotel which opened last year and other lodges as well as two new indigenous garages.
“All these developments came through during Covid-19 lockdown period and this shows that investors are seriously looking into investing in Victoria Falls,” said Clr Dlamini.
He said the city has run out of land for expansion and was pinning hopes on Government unlocking the land bank in Masue Estate, just outside the city. Clr Dlamini said shortage of land has seen the city’s housing waiting list ballooning to more than 15 000.
Victoria Falls is bordered by Zambezi River, national parks and forest land, and communal land. The city’s Master Plan is now outdated and the mayor said alternative policies were being pursued.
“We have a challenge. Our Master Plan was done way back and now outdated, and while we are waiting for it as it might take long because it requires a lot of funding, we are currently working on coming up with a local development plan.
We will be having it in the next few months and we believe land will be availed to cater for our housing waiting list which is hovering around between 15 000 and 20 000,” he said.
Speaking during the 2022 pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls recently, Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda implored Government to speed up development of the Victoria Falls Master Plan so as to create an appetite for investment in the country’s tourism capital.
Meanwhile, Clr Dlamini during the week met the Zimpapers board and top management on the sidelines of the country’s biggest media organisation’s strategic planning meeting in the resort city. Clr Dlamini said there was appetite by the two organisations to partner each other, which was key to development.
“Zimpapers plays a very crucial role in marketing Victoria Falls and we appreciate its interest in investing and partnering council in marketing Victoria Falls destination and these facilities. We feel marketing and advertising is key in making sure these facilities are exploited,” he said.
Locals have also called upon Government to allow the city to retain a percentage of earnings from the Rainforest for development purposes.