Friday, August 27, 2010

Zimbabwe News Update: Sanctions Are Blessing in Disguise; Tourism Resurgence

Sanctions: Blessing in disguise

By Sihle Dube
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

WHILE on a recent trip to Zimbabwe, this writer discovered that there are many developments going on in the country and many people are wasting their time engaging in useless debates in cyberspace.

This writer could not help thinking that many of our people who are trapped in the West for one reason or the other are beginning to lose out on a number of opportunities in the country.

While many people spend time uselessly accusing Zanu-PF of taking over companies under the indigenisation drive, there are many young people who are pursuing their dreams in the country; regardless of their party affiliation.

Many of them do not even care about party politics.

A lot of western businesses — including McDonalds, Coca Cola, the Sheraton Group and many others — have indicated their willingness to come into the country and invest.

This is despite the negative media reports that we read in cyberspace daily.

Foreigners are on a rampage to get some foothold on business opportunities in the country; while Zimbabweans in the Diaspora still engage in useless debates about how the "situation on the ground" has not changed.

Many young people have become serious entrepreneurs and Zimbabwe is becoming the jewel of the region.

Everywhere you go you see young black men engaged in big business; traditionally reserved for the white man.

Farming land has never been greener and the statistics are a true testament to that.

The Zimbabwean agricultural sector is improving dramatically and sooner or later, Zimbabwe will surpass even the production stage that had been reached by white commercial farmers.

It is a shame that the huge numbers in the Diaspora think they will, at a later stage, go home and "fill the gap".

There will be no gap to fill as entrepreneurs are cropping up daily.

Even businessmen from neighbouring countries and as far as Nigeria and Ghana are flocking into the country because of the opportunities the country is offering; and the stability that is in the country.

Zimbabwe still has abundant resources, great infrastructure and great weather.

It also has a willing, learned and skilled labour force that businesses take advantage of.

There have been challenges in the past, but the resilient people at home have weathered the storm and it cannot get any worse now.

Zimbabweans have seen the worst and there’s nothing the West can do now to stop them from moving on.

The West has completely lost its influence and credibility in Zimbabwe.

Britain has lost the opportunity to access resources in that country by imposing sanctions and disengaging.

Rather than engaging strategically, it has opened up investment space for friendly nations like China and Iran.

Those white commercial farmers who have lost land will never regain it. Even the once defiant MDC-T says the land reform exercise is irreversible.

Because of sanctions and reneging on Lancaster House obligations, Britain has lost that great opportunity for investment in Zimbabwe; and has failed their kith and kin who have lost some land in the process.

Because of that Labour government policy of isolating Zimbabwe, the country has acquired more farms for redistributing to landless blacks than they would have otherwise acquired had Britain funded that reform process.

In a sense, sanctions have been a blessing in disguise.

They have speeded up the land redistribution exercise and ensured that blacks got more land than was planned.

The revolution came early and fast, unlike in South Africa where "cautious optimism" is doing nothing for black people there.

The deterioration of the Zimbabwean industrial sector has made it possible for black businessmen to buy into those companies cheaply or cheaper than they would have otherwise done, had the big businesses remained in the country.

In a sense, our people have indeed been empowered by the sanctions. Britain has been weakened and its influence has waned.

We regret the human lives lost during the illegal sanctions period; but in hindsight we can say our people are indeed stronger because of Britain’s arrogance and intransigence.

Time will show just how sanctions have been a blessing in disguise and Zimbabweans should take advantage by making that great trek back home.

I know that I will do so, sooner rather than later.

Sihle Dube is a UK-based Zimbabwean lawyer and banker. She can be reached on uk. This article is reproduced from www.talkzimbabwe. com

Tourism rakes in US$350m

By Tendai Mugabe
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

THE tourism sector has raked in over US$350 million in the first half of the year and is projected to surpass the target of three million tourist arrivals before year-end.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Dr Sylvester Maunganidze told The Herald yesterday that hotel bookings had vastly improved and surpassed Government projections.

He said most of Zimbabwe’s top hotels, particularly those in Victoria Falls, were fully booked by foreigners up to mid-September.

Dr Maunganidze said indications were that the tourism sector would surpass the projected 12 percent contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product by 2012.

"Before the end of July, the tourism sector raked in US$360 million and we are expecting to double that by year-end. Despite the vilification of Zimbabwe by the Western media, tourists know that Zimbabwe is endowed with good tourist sites and have defied all odds of travel bans by some Western countries.

"We are on the rise and probably by December we will be sitting on the same level we were in 1998 — recording plus or minus three million tourist arrivals.

"At least two British planes are landing in Victoria Falls daily and tourists are now making Zimbabwe their destination of choice," he said.

Zimbabwe plays host to Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site, over and above other sites such as the Vumba and Nyanga mountains in Manicaland, the Great Zimbabwe Monument in Masvingo and Lake Kariba.

Dr Maunganidze said apart from the traditional European visitors, the country was also receiving an influx of tourists from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

He said a combination of factors — including "sterling efforts" by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority — had contributed to the dramatic upturn in the sector.

Dr Maunganidze said Zimbabwe had taken full advantage of being on the United Nations tourism body to market the country.

"After almost 10 years in the wilderness, Zimbabwe was readmitted in the family of international tourism and we were voted in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation executive council.

"We now have access to tourism meetings in countries that have imposed sanctions on us and we are taking advantage of that to repackage, rebrand and market the country as a safe tourism destination," he said.

The UNWTO executive council executes the body’s policies and decisions through various programmes and activities.

Zimbabwe sits on the council until 2013.

Dr Maunganidze said Zimbabwe won the 2010 Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa chairmanship and was maximising on that opportunity as well.

He, however, expressed concern over the behaviour of some "unscrupulous" operators in the sector who were not remitting the tourism levy to the Government.

He warned all companies that the law would descend heavily on those who breached it.

"ZTA is empowered to sue all those who evade remitting. Hotels are only agents who collect the 2 percent levy on behalf of the ZTA," he said.

There is, however, a mismatch between head counts and bank accounts, raising suspicion that some firms are under-declaring their revenues to evade paying levies.

Zimbabwe’s tourism industry declined over the past decade due to negative publicity by the Western media.

This was in response to Harare’s revolutionary agrarian reforms that saw nearly 300 000 black families benefiting from land previously held by just 6 000 white farmers.

This saw some Western countries issuing travel warnings to their citizens, advising them against visiting Zimbabwe.

However, concerted efforts by the Government have seen the sector rebounding.

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