Praz denies the Vic Falls project

TINASHE KAIRIZA
The Zimbabwe Purchasing Regulatory Authority (Praz) has divested itself of permits issued to two companies by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to set up commercial ventures on Cataract Island and the rainforest at the heart of Zimbabwe’s main tourist attraction, the Victoria Falls, show emerging details.

As reported by Zimbabwe Independent Last week, ZimParks, which is the third defendant in a High Court application, faces a lawsuit from Lawrence Benjamin Norton alongside nine other license applicants to Adage Success and Scanner Investments who intend to set up commercial operations near the falls.

The case was filed in May this year in the Harare High Court.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Praz are named as defendants in Norton’s claim, which seeks to “prevent the development of commercial interests at the Cataract and Rainforest sites.”

In February, the UN agency Unesco noted that Victoria Falls “faces increasing threats from individual and cumulative infrastructural developments, the footprints of which lie within the property”.

At the heart of Norton’s request is the question of the involvement of Praz and Ema in issuing permits to the two companies without going through a tender process.

Praz said this week at Independent that they were not involved in issuing permits.

The two companies are named as first and second respondents in Norton’s application.

Praz’s managing director, Clever Ruswa, said: “Following the enactment of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, Praz, unlike its predecessor…is a regulator and does not award public tenders. offers. It therefore granted no permits.

Ruswa pointed out that Praz was unaware of the circumstances leading to the licensing of Adage Success and Scanner Investments.

“For the reasons cited above, Praz does not know if there were such tenders and, if there were, what the costs were. The authority is not aware of any public tenders that have taken place,” he said in an email response to this publication.

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According to Norton’s application, Adage Success and Scanner Investments received “permits from ZimParks without public inquiry or comment to operate two sites within designated ‘highly sensitive areas’…surrounding the waterfall itself…and in close proximity to the forest. tropical created by sea spray. falls “.

Norton’s candidacy, Ruswa pointed out, does not seek redress from Praz, but from ZimParks.

“Praz is aware of the subpoena as a defendant in the case, but no relief is sought from Praz in this case,” Ruswa said, expressing the right not to comment further on the case, whose judgment has since been booked.

Ema’s spokeswoman, Amkela Sidange, told the Independent that Scanner Investments had received an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate after evaluating submissions made by key stakeholders, including the local Unesco office.

“Scanner has an EIA certificate whose approval comes with recommendations from landowners and relevant stakeholders, including the local Unesco office,” she said this week, explaining that she was unaware of the nature of the commercial project that the company intended to set up in the delicate areas of the falls.

Commenting on Adage Success, Sidange said the company had not received an EIA, but was aware that its proposal setting out intentions to set up recreational bathing facilities in the rainforest is not a project “d ‘infrastructure”.

Further inquiries to Sidange about Adage Success’s intentions to build a swimming pool to support its leisure facilities went unanswered.

She said: “Adage Success is a proposed activity (swimming) and not an infrastructure with respect to the information obtained by Ema (shows).”

At the time of this writing, ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo had not responded to questions posed by this publication.

The Independentamong other matters, sought to understand the fees paid by Adage Success and Scanner Investments to obtain the permits, the conditions of the permits and whether the entity issued a tender notice for the same in accordance with the tender procedures of public tenders.

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In light of rapid infrastructure developments in the resort town, which have come to the attention of Unesco, Victoria Falls City Council Clerk Ronnie Dube said in an interview last week that the authority would continue to “strictly” enforce regulations governing planned projects.

He said, “We will continue to adhere to the strict development conditions and recommendations of the EIA.”

Responding to measures the authority has put in place to maintain the status of a World Heritage Site bestowed on Victoria Falls by Unesco in 1989, Dube said tracts of land that are habitats for animals would remain “untouched”. .

“We apply developmental controls, leaving the animal corridors untouched. We are also minimizing developments in areas towards the property (falls),” he said.

However, in its February report, Unesco noted that rampant developments in the resort, some of which encroached on some sensitive areas of tourist attraction, risked removing Victoria Falls from World Heritage status.

Norton also raised the same fears in his candidacy. But, ZimParks in its opposing affidavit denied Norton’s request, citing that it was purely motivated by financial interests and as such had no locus standi.

“The plaintiff’s interest in this case is purely financial and this is reflected in the documents before the courts,” ZimParks managing director Fulton Upenyu Mangwanya said in his affidavit filed in the High Court on July 14. Victoria Falls is a world class tourist attraction. , which plunges 108 meters into a gorge. In 2016, former tourism minister Walter Mzembi pointed out that Zimbabwe and Zambia, which are separated by the Zambezi River, had the potential to generate $4.8 billion a year in tourism revenue after expanding tourism. Victoria Falls International Airport. But Unesco has expressed concern about planned infrastructure projects on both sides of the Zambezi River.

As of press time, Zambian Information Minister Caroline Kasanda had not commented on Lusaka’s position on the UNESCO report.

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