“Like slaughtering a dead elephant Covid-19 came, but we were already struggling as vendors” Curio vendors association’s chairperson Christopher Makamba explains the predicament Victoria falls is in, with the coming of Covid-19 which has made it difficult for the vendors and council to operate efficiently.
By Sibonginkosi Ncube
The pride of Zimbabwe’s tourism destination and once a hive of activity has now become desolate with very little activities happening as Covid-19 has heavy hit the tourism industry. The most affected being business and the city council who struggling to provide service delivery and battling with the economic challenges.
Women in the tourism industry in Victoria Falls have called upon the town council and landlords to reduce rates as they can not afford to pay as business has drastically gone down due to the lockdown and Covid-19. Spokesperson for Women in Tourism Mercy Ncube said women were failing to pay the current rates as they were incapacitated by the business situation which has remained low throughout the COVID-19 period as commercial premises were closed down.
“’’We call upon every player in the tourism industry to be considerate in these hard times and we especially implore the municipality to reduce the rates it is charging on us because we want to be assisted so as to pass through this situation,” ‘’she said.
Ncube also said that women in tourism are looking forward to embracing local tourism in the post-COVID-19 era by coming up with packages that will suit the locals when the intercity travelling ban has been lifted.
At the moment, businesses are not functional landlords charge exhibition rates from $20USD per square metre and so they end up paying $250USD to 1000USD depending on how big the shop is. This is now beyond the reach of many as the lockdown regulations have limited the movement of customers and buying tourism-related goods is a luxury for most of the locals.
Curio Vendors have not been spared by the impact of the pandemic either. “As curio vendors we cannot even afford a decent meal for our families as we had always lived from hand to mouth. As we look forward to starting operations it is mandatory for us to fumigate our work stations and shops which is almost impossible to afford especially looking at the costs.’’ Makamba laments.
As vendors, they have organized a committee that will negotiate with the local authority and agree on a payment plan. The mayor Victoria Falls Somvelo Dlamini said that council has canceled interest rate which is 6% due lockdown to try and cushion the Covid impact on businesses and locals.
“The municipality team is in a financial crisis due to the current runaway inflation,800% percent budget which was approved immediately after the lockdown has already been overtaken by inflation yet we are expected to meet the expectations on service delivery, at the same time Victoria Falls municipality employees are demanding salary increment,” Dlamini add.
As the Covid impacts continue to weigh in the Victoria Falls community there is need for collective effort and solutions to mitigate some of these challenges. The Victoria Falls municipality has continued to make efforts to keep the city clean and has taken this Covid period to clean the city, reconstruction the drainage systems, and repainting tar marks given the town a facelift.