VICTORIA Falls Municipality has vowed not to reverse the rate increases proposed in the 2015 budget following complaints by tourism operators that the charges were too high.
By Ruth Ngwenya
There has been an outcry by tourism operators after the rates were increased by more than 500%, which saw some operators forced to pay $11 000 from $3 000 monthly.
Stakeholders in the tourist resort town discussed the matter last week during meetings presided over by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke and Zimbabwe Tourism Council chief executive officer Paul Matamisa where efforts to reach a compromise failed.
Speaking during a full council meeting on Tuesday, town clerk Christopher Dube said it was too late for tourism operators to present their complaints because the budget was already operational.
“It has been made clear to them (tourism operators) that the budget under discussion is the 2015 one which was crafted following all legal processes,” Dube said.
He said the municipality received only two objections after the council advertised the proposed rates last year.
The town clerk said the local authority could have reviewed the proposals if at least 21 objections had been lodged.
“Council rejected the objections as not sufficient in terms of law and approved the 2015 budget which was forwarded and approved by the (Local Government) minister (Ignatius Chombo),” he said.
However, Kaseke insisted that the rates should be reviewed as they were too high.
“We were trying to reach some understanding and I see that this is now threatening the tourism capital of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Yes, the council needs to survive and they must have means to maintain and deliver excellent services, but it should not be achieved through an out-of-way increase.”
He said the tourism sector, which employs over 10 000 people in Victoria Falls alone, contributed 11% to gross domestic product last year.
But mayor Sifiso Mpofu dismissed Kaseke saying he could not dictate what should happen in the resort town.
“Things have to start working in Victoria Falls and we should stop listening to people from Harare,” he said.
“Who is Kaseke to come and challenge something that the minister approved?”