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Sanctions distress tourism sector

The illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western nations are costing the country potential tourism investment.

Zimbabwe has been under illegal sanctions for the past two decades following an embargo imposed by America and its Western allies as a response to the country’s fast-track land reform programme which started in 2000 and meant to correct the skewed landownership that favoured white farmers.

The new dispensation  under President Mnangagwa has, despite the sanctions, made tremendous economic progress using locally available resources as it implements the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).

This month Zimbabwe is joined by SADC and the rest of the progressive world to push for the removal of the illegal sanctions that have also affected the entire region.

SADC Heads of State and Government in 2019 proclaimed October 25 as a day of solidarity with the Zimbabwean people against sanctions.

This followed a meeting held by SADC leaders in Tanzania where member states resolved to conduct various activities in their respective countries on the day to resoundingly call for the immediate removal of the sanctions.

Employers Association for the Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said because of sanctions, the industry is struggling to process inbound payments, buy goods or attract tourists from Western countries.

He said the anti-sanctions campaign should target Western countries so that their leaders endorse Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination.

“Sanctions affect tourism in various ways including travel warnings and travel bans. The processing of inbound and outbound payments is also affected by rules put by the American central bank which makes it difficult for American citizens to pay any local company directly from there.

“Our industry also buys some goods like vehicles from outside the country and this is another area that is affected,” said Mr Mukwasi.

Tourism executive, Mr Tonderai Mutasa said due to sanctions tourists cannot use certain payment methods when dealing with Zimbabwe.

“There are travel restrictions from some countries while others have imposed import bans, which means   Zimbabweans cannot import equipment, vehicles and other goods from these countries.

“Tourists wishing to travel to Zimbabwe can’t pay or buy using some payment methods like Paypal hence this has affected arrivals. We are losing because investors intending to invest locally cannot move the money to Zimbabwe,” said Mr Mutasa

Victoria Falls mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini said the tourism town was suffering from the effects of the illegal sanctions.

“We are a border and tourism town and we need to work with international communities on different services that relate to tourism. These sanctions must be lifted as soon as possible as they are hurting not only the national economy, but also our local economy as a tourism town.

“As a council we are getting a lot of enquiries from potential investors but the sanctions restrictions make it difficult for them to come and invest, “ said Cllr Dlamini.

He said many foreign companies have indicated that they want to invest in Victoria Falls but cannot move the money to Zimbabwe due to the illegal sanctions.

“As a mayor of the country’s tourism capital, I lobby that the sanctions be lifted as soon as possible for the good of our people and attainment of the Second Republic’s vision,” he said.

Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association (Vifacora) chair Mr Kelvin Moyo said a majority of residents now understands the severity of sanctions as they have been affected.

He challenged Zimbabweans to join Government in campaigning against the illegal sanctions that have adversely affected the tourism industry.

“Victoria Falls was severely affected because tourism source markets are the same countries that imposed the sanctions and are disseminating falsehoods that Zimbabwe is not a safe tourist destination.

We have situations whereby travellers are not able to pay directly to Zimbabwe from their countries and this is affecting tourist arrivals,” Mr Moyo said.

He said to evade the sanctions restrictions, some tourism companies had opened accounts in neighbouring South Africa to enable them to transact without hindrance.

Mr Moyo implored Government to come up with vigorous awareness campaigns to explain effects of the illegal sanctions to citizens as part of activities to prepare for the Anti-Sanctions Day.

Acting Chief Mvuthu said rural communities around Victoria Falls are lagging behind in terms of development because of sanctions.

“We are not getting investors despite having vast natural resources in our community. As for us in Victoria Falls, we should be the richest rural communities with the best schools and clinics funded by tourism companies. Many people are jobless and others that used to rely on selling curios no longer have customers as limited numbers of tourists are visiting the country,” said Chief Mvuthu.

Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo commended President Mnangagwa for championing development despite the sanctions.

He said there will be activities lined up in the province guided by the national programme for the Anti-Sanctions Day.

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