More trouble for UNWTO general assembly

HARARE - Zimbabwe will not be able to translocate animals to the Victoria Falls National Park putting another damper on the country’s successful hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly conference next year.

Dogged by lack of funds to drive anticipated capital projects and reports of cheating during the bidding process, the tourism extravaganza’s credibility now lies in doubt.

National Parks (Natparks) and Wildlife Authority director Vitalis Chadenga told businessdaily in an interview there will be no animal movement.

“We would have wanted to transfer animals to Victoria Falls National Park but there is no money to undertake this exercise. A decision has thus been made that we concentrate on refurbishing existing infrastructure to make accessibility easier,” Chadenga said.

The authority announced earlier this year it would be moving animals to one of the World’s Seven Wonders whose numbers have dwindled to unprecedented levels.

It is now difficult for tourists to see any animals particularly the big five.

But Chadenga said priorities had changed.

“The priority now is to make sure accommodation and such other infrastructure around Victoria Falls is up to scratch and that is what we are concentrating our efforts on. We have partners some of whom unfortunately seem to be developing cold feet but we will work out something."

“Natparks will do its best to contribute to the successful hosting of the assembly,” he said.

On the issue of security of tourists following an incident in which a bull elephant reportedly went on the rampage causing panic before being put down, Chadenga said it was an isolated case but people should always be careful.

“We should always be alive to the fact that these are wild animals and anything can happen. However, I must hasten to say we have a strategic plan and security details have gone through thorough training, our rangers just await deployment,” said Chadenga.

Preparations for the prestigious event to be co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in August 2013 have been marred by controversy following revelations by a senior government official, that the bidding committee exaggerated pictorial evidence to persuade judges to grant the country the right to host the event.

This was followed last week by the European Union threatening to boycott the event over the granting of hunting licences to Zanu PF-aligned political bigwigs in the Save Conservancy.

Sylvester Maunganidze former permanent secretary in the ministry of Tourism was redeployed in the ensuing fallout that threatened Zimbabwe’s diplomatic relations with its northern neighbour.

He had claimed Zambia did not have a ministry responsible for tourism and was not serious about preparations, and envisaged infrastructural upgrade would be impossible because of financial constraints.

Maunganidze also claimed he had been embarrassed to have to lie that Air Zimbabwe was flying internationally when it was not.


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