En route to the conference, the Chief Executive of Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is stopped four times at ZRP roadblocks …
THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is ratcheting up pressure on the Presidency to intervene and stop endless roadblocks mounted by traffic cops on major highways, scaring away international tourists and crippling the hospitality industry.
The authority has appealed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is in charge of the economic cluster, to bring back order on Zimbabwe’s highways, in the wake of revelations that the tourism industry is starting to feel the effects of the numerous roadblocks mounted by officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
In the past year, at least three major tourism industry players have collapsed, raising concerns in an industry that generates about US$1 billion for the country every year. The tourism and hospitality industry is among four key sectors expected to drive economic recovery under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Soci-Economic Transformation economic blue-print.
Roadblocks, described by ZTA to be among many factors frustrating tourism growth, also affect commerce by causing unnecessary delays along transport corridors. Goods en-route to other regional destinations are also delayed on Zimbabwe’s highways. Confrontations between traffic cops and commuter omnibuses frustrated by the roadblocks have ended in fatalities.
There has been an eruption of anger among the public and businesses, including the fragile tourism industry, which are affected by the delays occassioned by the roadblocks. But even as ZTA chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke, indicated he had raised concerns with Mnangagwa over roadblocks, Home Affairs Minister, Ignatius Chombo, was reported to have sanctioned the use of spikes on the roads, as well as guns.
Almost every police officer in Harare now carries a spike, but many fear these have been turned into personal gadgets used by the traffic cops to extort the driving public rather than bring order to the country’s roads. Kaseke told industry stakeholders in Victoria Falls last week that the longer roadblocks stayed, the deeper the problems in the industry. “Visitors want to go where they are respected,” the ZTA boss told industry executives at the launch of Kenya Airways’ maiden direct flight into Victoria Falls from Nairobi.
“I was stopped four times by police this morning. Is this respecting our visitors? I have talked to the Vice President about the issue of roadblocks. He said he will call the Minister of Home Affairs and talk to him. The police are making this destination unattractive. I know that as Ministers you were not stopped but I was stopped four times,” he told Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Joram Gumbo, who was the keynote speaker at the event.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) director general, David Chaota, said the drive to attract tourists into the country had to be accompanied by reforms meant to improve accessibility, with little or no hindrance to tourists. “We must do it without compromising national security,” he told the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets in Victoria Falls.
“We must help the ZTA market the destination. We are looking at regaining our lost pride,” Chaota said. In the past five months, CAAZ has led a revolution to improve accessibility, following the completion of the US$150 million facelift of Victoria Falls International Airport in November, which now accommodates up to 1,5 million tourists per annum, from about 500 000. As a result, there has been an upsurge in foreign air traffic that has renewed confidence in the country’s frail tourism industry, shattered by devastating economic and political volatilities that triggered crippling travel bans.