MASHONALAND West Senator Sikelela Gumpo (Zanu PF) has called on government to declare Kariba a special economic zone, saying the town has the potential to earn foreign currency, as well as open up employment opportunities.
Gumpo recently introduced the motion in Senate, also calling on government to construct a new airport in the town, which he said was critical for the revival of tourism in the town.
“I am also concerned by the decline in the wild animal population, which is a major tourist attraction in the resort town,” he said.
“Government should expeditiously provide financial resources for the construction of the new airport in Kariba, control the movement of wild animals and poaching activities, and designate Kariba town as a special economic zone in order to unlock its great potential.”
Gumpo said even the fishing industry in the area was facing many challenges, resulting in lack of growth for the town.
“The fishing industry was booming at one stage and all that has become a thing of the past. One of the reasons is that it has not been given adequate attention that is required to make it continue to play an important role in the support of the economy of the country.”
He said a lot of hotels, lodges and other tourist facilities in Kariba closed, rendering thousands of people jobless.
“The closure of Kariba Airport that followed made the already bad situation worse. Dialogue on the matter was initiated between government and stakeholders, but it did not succeed because of poor communication and funding.
“The proposed airport development was initiated in 1993, feasibility studies were carried out, and costing was done and completed. However, this project later became a victim of the sanctions 10 years later because the project could not be started on time, hence, nothing has been done on this project up to date,” he said.
Gumpo said at one time, Kariba Airport, together with Buffalo Range, was on the government priority list of proposed airport redevelopment, but without any reasons given, the Kariba project was suddenly abandoned.
“The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry need to explain this matter,” he said.
“The animal population around Kariba is slowly, but surely disappearing. These animals are the source of tourism and something needs to be done to arrest this decline sooner or later. Kariba used to receive 150 000 tourists annually in 1998, but the numbers have declined drastically,” he said.
Another Mashonaland West Senator Joseph Chirongoma (Zanu PF) said boating activities, and game hunting in Nyaminyami need to be revived.–newsday.co.zw