The Sunday Mail
Annual tourist arrivals from South Africa have declined from 1, 5 million to 600 000 partly due to heavy police presence on Zimbabwe’s roads, a Cabinet minister has said. Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi said many South African tourists who drive to Zimbabwe had been encumbered by numerous spot fines at roadblocks.
Dr Mzembi, however, quickly pointed out that his remarks were not an indictment on Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo and Commissioner-General of Police Dr Augustine Chihuri.
He was speaking at a pre-Harare Agricultural Show workshop last week.
Said Dr Mzembi, “I speak about roadblocks not because I want to indict the Commissioner-General or the Minister of Home Affairs. It doesn’t matter how attractive a destination is. If they are constituted in a conflict or war zone, they will not sell. Even in dealing with security, let us brand your actions so that you police in a different way.
“We should not score points against each other. It is not about winning arguments. The one that should win is brand Zimbabwe. Two million people visit South Africa yearly. They spend days there. Only last week, I was being informed that we have tumbled from where we were from 1,5 million to 600 000 arrivals from South Africa; the self-drives which used to happen from Beitbridge.
“Other than facilitating regional trade, it also facilitated self-drives for people from South Africa who would be visiting Gwanda, Masvingo up to Kariba. The roadblock issues that these people cite. . . they say, ‘I cannot do it: Twenty times forking out so much money until I reach my destination.’ That is what they say, and I am not indicting anyone.”
The latest Visitor Exit Survey by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency says “harassment by the police” is one of the major reasons why some tourists will not recommend the country.
The VES established that “harassment by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and Immigration officers” was also among the repelling factors.
Zimstat surveyed 38 680 foreign tourists from November 2015 and November 2016.
Dr Mzembi told last week’s workshop that it was not, however, all gloom and doom for tourism.
“I have just received good news from the French Ambassador. He says Air France is coming to Victoria Falls. But he says it will take time for Air France to come back to Harare. What is the difference between Victoria Falls and Harare?
“Victoria is a tourist destination. Its destination brand is stronger than the country brand. So, people will continue flying to that area.”