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High Court seemingly reluctant to stop threats facing Victoria Falls

More than five months have passed now since the High Court was approached to stop a substantial riverside restaurant development near the Victoria Falls and the commercialisation of Cataract Island in the tourism city.

Earlier this year information emerged that two private companies were about to undertake commercial operations in the vicinity of the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.

Adage Success P/L apparently had permission from the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZNPWA) to undertake commercial activities on Cataract Island including a natural plunge pool experience on the immediate edge of the Main Falls.

This was subsequently advertised by Zambezi Crescent, Mr Mark Bosch’s company.

On May 30 this year, Larry Norton, an artist based in Victoria Falls filed a case at the High Court in the capital Harare, along with other residents, to stop these developments. The court application was filed on an urgent basis.

But it has been more than five months now and the matter is yet to be heard.

The controversial developments are, however, taking place at one of the seven wonders of the world.

In an open letter aimed at updating the world about the ongoing court case, Norton articulated that the judiciary was yet to hear their matter. He added that they have been writing letters to authorities to act but nothing has yet materialised.

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“Despite an urgent application submitted on 30th May 2022, the case has yet to be heard. 149 days have passed with no ruling from the judge on the Urgent Application to stop these activities.

“Three letters to the high court questioning this extraordinary and unheard of delay have been sent. The last letter was acknowledged by the Registrar,” Norton wrote.

He further stated that he was threatened by unnamed government officials who wanted to stop him from challenging the matter.

“At the outset of this process I received a phone call from a government official. I was asked who I represented, ordered to stop enquiries, desist from talking to people about these issues and advised that I was going against the government.

“After the court process had begun another government official approached a number of individuals who had written supporting applications for the case to attempt to persuade them to abandon their applications. He was unsuccessful. I question his interest in two proposed commercial enterprises,” Norton added.

Around 2016 a Victoria Falls tourism company was offered Cataract Island and turned the lease down due to a public outcry. Two other local operators then applied for the same lease. Both offered substantial lease fees. Both were turned down by ZNPWA for environmental reasons.

A lease was later surreptitiously awarded to Adage of Success for US$5,000 per year (as per court papers submitted). This amount is payable in RTGS.

Norton said the restaurant is sited 40 metres from the Rainforest fence, on the water’s edge approaching Devil’s Cataract. The developers have cleared large sections of riverine bush . They are currently concreting foundations.

He added: “These actions, in such a sensitive site, to me, demonstrate a callous disregard for this fragile environment and wild space in exchange for personal profit.”

He appealed to the World Heritage Site monitors to urgently investigate both the proposed riverside restaurant development and the Cataract Island commercial operation on the Zimbabwe side.