CHAOS in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality over preparations for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly to be jointly hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in Victoria Falls next year claimed its first scalp in Sylvester Maunganidze, axed as permanent secretary for allegedly disseminating misleading information.
Maunganidze was transferred to the Public Service Commission pool on Tuesday after being accused of giving parliament the wrong impression about the joint Zimbabwe/Zambia winning bid.
Maunganidze made stunning revelations to lawmakers that Zimbabwe was so desperate to win the coveted right to host the premier tourism indaba that the bid officials lied to impress the UNTWO board.
Maunganidze said he was embarrassed to have lied that national carrier Air Zimbabwe was flying normally, yet most of its fleet is grounded.
He said the impression was given that the country’s “peacock project” which proposes massive transformation of the tourism hub by constructing a new convention centre and expansion of the Victoria Falls Airport to allow bigger planes to land would be completed in time for the convention.
However, the Zimbabwe/Zambia bid — in possession of the Zimbabwe Independent — simply promoted the idyllic Victoria Falls as a destination with world standard facilities and warm people. The bid also estimated the cost of hosting the assembly at US$6 million that would be equally shared by the two countries.
“Hosting the UNWTO General Assembly has been estimated by the two countries to cost them about US$6 million. This amount will cover hotel accommodation, airfares, allowances, fees for interpreters and translators, administration expenses and a contingency provision,” reads slide 68 of the bid document.
The bid took into consideration the 1 500 bonafide delegates and their spouses. It also looked at their upkeep in both countries for the duration of the week-long conference.
An official in the Ministry of Tourism told the Independent that the “peacock project” was not part of the bid, but one of the country’s long-term planning strategies for hosting large international conferences.
“The ‘peacock project’ is the ministry’s grand plan to make Zimbabwe capable of winning and hosting large international conferences in future,” said the official. “It proposes enlarging the Harare and Victoria Falls international airports and the construction of a 5 000-seater convention centre in the environs of the tourist town.”
Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi showed the Independent a copy of the UNWTO executive council meeting document showing the body was happy with the country’s preparations as presented in the bid document.
The UNWTO executive council congratulated both Zimbabwe and Zambia for their “excellent coordination and efficient progress towards an extremely successful session of the general assembly in Africa”.
Mzembi said treasury had provided enough funding for the successful hosting of the general assembly scheduled for August 24-29, 2013.
“Treasury has provided adequate funding for the project and this takes into consideration the US$150 million concessionary loan from China Exim Bank,” said Mzembi.
The event is likely to become the coalition government’s marque after more than a decade of international isolation of Zimbabwe by the European Union and United States.
The EU last month suspended part of its sanctions on Zimbabwe for the next year on condition the country holds both a credible constitutional referendum and general elections.
The UNWTO Zimbabwe/Zambia joint bid highlighted the following:
- Victoria Falls resort as an international heritage site.
- Good hotel and private accommodation with capacity for 3 000 single rooms at Rainbow Tourism Group Hotels, ZimSun
Hotels and private lodges in the immediate environments.
- State-of-the-art mobile hospital theatre in partnership with Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas).
- Mobile and medical air rescue services.
- Outdoor activities, among others air-rides of the mighty falls, visiting the rainforest, bungee jumping and white water rafting.
- State-of-the-art international airports and ground transfers.
- Provision of bottled water to all delegates for the duration of the general assembly.
- Construction of two-tent marques with a capacity to seat 5 000 delegates on the grounds of the Victoria Falls Hotel for the official opening and closing ceremonies.
The “Peacock Project” proposes:
- Construction of a giant 5 000-sitter convention centre in Victoria Falls.
- Construction of two new three-star hotels within the vicinity of the convention centre.
- Construction of a state-of-the art hospital.
- Expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport so that it can safely accommodate landing of large planes such as Airbus.
- Expansion and refurbishment of Harare International Airport through completion of the second runway.