Vic Falls set for city sta­tus

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Business News - Leonard Ncube in Vic­to­ria Falls

VIC­TO­RIA Falls Mu­nic­i­pal­ity could soon be­come the sec­ond city in Mata­bele­land re­gion if Gov­ern­ment ap­proves an ap­pli­ca­tion made by the lo­cal au­thor­ity for city sta­tus.

Bu­l­awayo is the only city in the re­gion which cov­ers Mata­bele­land South, North as well as Bu­l­awayo met­ro­pol­i­tan.

The re­sort town was con­ferred mu­nic­i­pal sta­tus in 1999 and the man­age­ment ap­plied for up­grad­ing early this year say­ing it has the ca­pac­ity and in­fras­truc­ture to be con­ferred city sta­tus which will bring com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity feels it lever­ages on many ad­van­tages such as be­ing the coun­try’s prime re­sort area, hav­ing a state of the art Vic­to­ria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port and Spe­cial Eco­nomic Zone sta­tus among oth­ers.

The Gov­ern­ment last week sent a five-mem­ber com­mis­sion led by prin­ci­pal di­rec­tor in charge of ur­ban and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment in the Min­istry of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Pub­lic Works and Na­tional Hous­ing Ms Erica Jones to as­sess the town’s ca­pac­ity.

The com­mis­sion com­pleted the week-long en­gage­ments on Fri­day after lis­ten­ing to pre­sen­ta­tions by the coun­cil man­age­ment, tra­di­tional lead­ers from Hwange District, tourism play­ers, res­i­dents and the business com­mu­nity. Neigh­bour­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties such as Hwange Lo­cal Board, Hwange Ru­ral District Coun­cil and Bu­l­awayo City Coun­cil mar­keted the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to the com­mis­sion.

In an in­ter­view on Fri­day, Ms Jones said a fi­nal report will be pre­sented to the Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Na­tional Hous­ing Cde Saviour Ka­sukuwere on Thurs­day.

“Our job was to gather ev­i­dence in re­la­tion to the ap­pli­ca­tion made by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity com­mu­ni­cated very well and we have very wide ev­i­dence from all sec­tors like res­i­dents, com­mer­cial, tourism in­dus­try and neigh­bour­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties as well as tra­di­tional lead­ers hence we have suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to make a report,” said Ms Jones.

She said Min­is­ter Ka­sukuwere will make rec­om­men­da­tions to Pres­i­dent Mugabe who will then make a fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube said Vic­to­ria Falls was strate­gic to the coun­try hence they ex­pect Gov­ern­ment to con­fer it with city sta­tus bas­ing on in­fras­truc­ture and ser­vices it of­fers.

“As a mu­nic­i­pal­ity we pre­sented our pre­pared­ness as we have ca­pac­ity in hu­man re­source and equip­ment. We lever­age on a lot of is­sues hence we are ex­pect­ing Gov­ern­ment to con­fer us be­cause we never plan to fail,” said Mr Dube.

He said Vic­to­ria Falls has bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties than other small cities in the coun­try in terms of ser­vice de­liv­ery, up­keep, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and in­fras­truc­ture.

The town is work­ing on a $12 mil­lion wa­ter retic­u­la­tion project, so­lar street light­ing, hous­ing projects and road up­grade while it’s in the process of com­ing up with first ever traf­fic lights. To be con­ferred a city, is­sues like pop­u­la­tion are con­sid­ered.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2012 cen­sus, Vic­to­ria Falls was home to 38 000 peo­ple. Mr Dube said the pop­u­la­tion was now close to 50 000 be­cause of mi­gra­tion due to tourism while tran­sit pop­u­la­tion that goes through the air­port is about 400 000, with thou­sands of road users from neigh­bour­ing Zam­bia, and Botswana.

“Nat­u­rally this should be based on in­dus­try but we don’t view in­dus­try as hav­ing chim­neys. We have tourism which Gov­ern­ment has said is worth $12 bil­lion if prop­erly har­nessed. We are cog­nisant of the en­vi­ron­ment. We are look­ing at com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tages where we can com­pare and com­pete with Liv­ing­stone City across the river be­cause peo­ple pre­fer to visit cities. If up­graded we will be com­pet­ing at that level while we will also ease pres­sure on Bu­l­awayo City which is the only city in the re­gion,” he added.

Cde Saviour Ka­sukuwere

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