Vic Falls restaurant remains shut
by Nelson Chenga,
STILL mired in controversy, a Victoria Falls rainforest restaurant remains shut and deserted after environmentalists raised alarm over its location inside the World Heritage Site citing possible negative environmental effects on the relatively unspoilt natural environs.
The rainforest area, bordering the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls, has also become a heated subject in an ownership wrangle between the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZNPWMA) and the country's National Museums and Monuments.
The restaurant, constructed by one of the Victoria Falls town's biggest companies, Shearwater, in partnership with ZNPWMA, was meant to offer refreshments and rest for visitors to one of the world's largest waterfalls.
Although the restaurant reportedly received thumbs up from foreign tourists and the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality soon after its completion, effectively overriding the environmentalists' concerns, the ownership wrangle between ZNPWMA and National Museums forced it to close down.
The structure is now fast turning into a white elephant.
Observers have pointed out that while the former sought to maximise on tourist visits to the Victoria Falls, the latter was also right to challenge the construction of a restaurant there because the rainforest area is a World Heritage site which should be kept as natural as possible and a restaurant in there would set a bad precedent.
It would be difficult to stop other players from seeking to construct structures there.
The Victoria Falls was in 1989 designated a World Heritage Site because it offers an "inescapable closeness to the natural elements" according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organi-sation (UNESCO), the organisation with the mandate to make such declarations.
The road to Victoria Falls, otherwise previously named Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders) by the local indigenous inhabitants before the British explorer David Livingstone renamed them, being declared a World Heritage Site began in the 1930s.
According to UNESCO, the Victoria Falls Reserve Preservation Ordinance of 1934 established the Victoria Falls executive committee, which was responsible for the preservation of the falls area. In 1948, the National Monuments Commission established a Victoria Falls Conservancy Committee, and extended the protected area downstream to Songwe Gorge (confirmed in legislation in 1949).
In 1953, the colonial governor formed the Victoria Falls Trust, which had responsibility for the area until the national park was declared on February 25 1972 by Statutory Instrument No. 44 (when the area came under the jurisdiction of the National Parks and Wildlife Service).
There are six national monuments within the park, including the falls.
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