Tourism ministry engages police over roadblocks
By Tendai Kamhungira
The Tourism ministry is continuing with efforts to have police reduce the ubiquitous roadblocks which have seen international tourists turning their backs on the country.
Apart from scaring international tourists, the many roadblocks have led to a national outcry by the local motoring public which accuses police of harassment and at times, corruption during the discharge of their duties at these stops.
The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT), which represents the country’s major tourism players, yesterday said the Tourism and Hospitality ministry was in conversation with police over the roadblocks.
“We have in the past drawn attention to obstacles to such growth and in this regard I would like to remind operators that Zimbabwe Council of Tourism continues to push for reduction of roadblocks, improvement of all roads, introduction of reliable and affordable air transport around the country and the creation of an acceptable, smooth and efficient system of arrival and departure procedures at Beitbridge Border Post,” ZCT president Tich Hwingwiri told a media briefing.
“Bottom line is, we are simply seeking a win-win situation where number one, the security of the nation cannot be negotiated, we are fully aware of that and we are also saying business viability is a model that needs to be attained and our business is dependent on arrivals, the more arrivals, the more business we make…hence the inconveniences that our guys continue to face.
“It’s a song that we will continue to sing up to a point where we all have a common understanding of the way forward and I am very much encouraged with the deliberations that we have been involved in,” Hwingwiri said.
Tourists have voiced distress over the ubiquitous presence of Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) details on the country’s roads, with over half of respondents in a Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (Zimstat) survey saying they felt harassed by the cops.
Harassment by the police constituted the highest percentage of the reasons not to recommend the country to potential tourists, at 43,2 percent, followed by harassment by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers at 14,7 percent.
Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo has said police had been instructed to decongest roadblocks through a directive which allowed one roadblock within a 10km radius to promote ease of doing business.
Instead, police have actually increased the roadblocks.
In their report for the first half of 2017, police made nearly $14 million from roadblocks and made a million arrests for traffic violations.
Meanwhile, Hwingwiri said that the number of visitors has significantly improved in Victoria Falls after government recently commissioned a $150 million international airport that has spurred brisk tourism business in the resort town.
This comes after Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways in April introduced direct flights to Victoria Falls from Nairobi and Addis Ababa, respectively.
Hwingiri also announced that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has also set aside efforts by the Zimra to retrospectively collect Value Added Tax on food and beverages sold as part of packaged accommodation between 2009 and 2015. Daily News