PARLIAMENT has approved Victoria Falls‘ city status following recommendations by a commission that was set up to assess the town’s capacity.
Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo set the commission three years ago following an application for city status by the municipality.
The commission submitted its report on January 19, 2018 recommending that the municipality was fit to be granted city status.
Minister Moyo tabled the matter in Parliament on Wednesday where he sought the nod for President Mnangagwa to accord the status to the country’s prime tourism town.
MPs commended the development saying Victoria Falls deserved city status as it has what it takes to be a world class destination city. If granted the status, Victoria Falls will become the first city in Matabeleland North and also the first city based on tourism in the country.
This will cement its prestigious status as the only tourism destination that competes with Cape Town in South Africa in terms of the number of hotels.
Victoria Falls, which boasts of a state-of-the-art airport, is the core of the Victoria Falls Area Tourism Development Plan and recently approved special economic zone (SEZ) corridor which comprises Masuwe Stateland, Batoka City, Mlibizi, Binga Centre, Sijalila, Hwange Hinterland and Gwayi Shangani resort, which all seek to improve tourism in and around Victoria Falls.
Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conferencing capital and plans to build Masue Satellite Town which will have a multi-purpose convention centre and state-of-the-art facilities such as five-star hotels, medical centre, a university, a Zimbabwe Defence Forces camp and sporting facilities among other facilities.
Government also plans to build about 30 000 houses at Masue as part of the Victoria Falls Development Plan.
Last week Government opened the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange which will trade in foreign currency thereby enhancing the town’s attractiveness and also lure investors. The resort town has hosted many international events such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly and conferment of a city status will attract more of such events.
“Following receipt of an application by Victoria Falls Municipality for upgrading to city status, I appointed a commission to investigate the suitability of the council to be elevated to a city status. Upon my receipt of the report from the commission in December 2017, I studied the recommendation contained therein and am now satisfied that the fast growing local authority and tourist epicentre of Zimbabwe should be awarded city status.
“I now move a motion for the adoption of the report so that we can proclaim Victoria Falls Municipality as a city. I therefore call upon Parliament to resolve and recommend to the President to proclaim the municipality as a city and thereby Victoria Falls assume the status of an eminent tourism city in the world,” said Minister Moyo.
Minister Moyo said growth was inevitable for Victoria Falls, which started as a railway station under Livingstone town during the colonial Federation period and achieved town status in 1971. It was proclaimed a municipality in 1999.
“It is therefore befitting that they progress to the next level,” said Minister Moyo.
He said the Urban Council Act states that Parliament can resolve to request the President to accord city status which will lead to proclamation and gazetting. Minister Moyo commended Victoria Falls management for keeping updated audited financials and for crafting a robust redevelopment concept aimed at improving infrastructure ahead of granting of city status.
“The city title embolden the impression of credibility and attracts development and potential investment from both local and international investors while simultaneously embracing the element of prestige which is what any local authority envisages. The local authority together with the Ministry have therefore initiated a process of upgrading the municipality to a city status,” added Minister Moyo.
He said Government will make sure that animal corridors, wetlands and river systems in Victoria Falls are preserved. MPs welcomed the development saying granting Victoria Falls city status to the town was long overdue.
They however implored Government to avoid crowding the existing urban area and disturbing Victoria Falls’ natural habitat which is tourism’s draw card. Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna said the development was long overdue adding that Victoria Falls has better facilities than Kadoma city in Mashonaland West.
Hwange West MP Mr Godfrey Dube in whose constituency Victoria Falls is located said the resort town should be allowed to retain part of revenue generated from the tourism activities for development of the new city.
“We are happy and celebrating that Victoria Falls has been given city status. There should be a special arrangement for the Victoria Falls city status as it should not be equated to other cities like Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru because this one is totally different. We are also expecting development which will not disturb what is already there because we know that our visitors come to Victoria Falls because of wildlife and the river,” said Mr Dube.
Hwange East MP Tose Sansole and Binga South MP Joel Gabbuza Gabbuza concurred that while the development was welcome, due attention should be given to keep the town in its pristine state.