Leonard Ncube and Nosikelelo Moyo, Chronicle Reporters
VICTORIA Falls residents have petitioned Parliament demanding to retain 30 percent of revenue generated from the Rainforest and related parks fees charged at various tour activities to develop local schools, clinics and libraries.
A resident, Mr Godfrey Dube, who led the initiative, handed the petition on behalf of residents to the Speaker of Parliament, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, on Thursday last week on the sidelines of the just ended Parliamentary pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls.
About 600 residents signed the petition.
“This is not a political move but an idea generally spearheaded by concerned residents. We handed the petition to the office of the Speaker of Parliament (Adv Mudenda) on Thursday after gathering about 600 signatures. People want at least 30 percent of gate takings at the Rainforest and from rafting, game drives and bungee jumping where clients pay parks fees,” said Mr Dube.
He said residents also want minors below the age of 15 and the elderly above 65 years to be allowed free entry into the rainforest.
Residents allege that 75 percent of children in the resort town have never visited the Rainforest as they cannot afford entrance fees.
The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority manages the Rainforest and also collects parks fees from rafting and game drives clients.
Locals pay $7 and $4 each for adults and children respectively while tourists from the Sadc region pay $20.
International tourists pay $30 per individual.
Parks fees range between $10 and $15 depending on the activity. On average 250 000 tourists, 75 percent of them foreign, visit the Rainforest annually.
Mr Dube said they will follow-up on the petition through the local Member of Parliament for Hwange West, Cde Bekithemba Mpofu next week.
The petition, addressed to the Clerk of Parliament and copied to the Minister of Finance, chairperson of the National Budget Committee, Minister of State for Matabeleland North province, Victoria Falls Town Clerk and the Victoria Falls Residents Association read in part:
“As a follow-up to the national budget consultative meeting held at Chinotimba Hall in September 2017 whereby as residents we submitted that we be allocated 30 percent of the total gate takings at gross value from the Rainforest and park fees within our radius, we are hereby cementing our final demand as residents and villagers within this area.
“It’s a fact that government through Zimparks is making a lot of money from our God given resources without locals benefiting anything hence we demand that our local children below the age of 15 and elderly above 65 years be afforded free entrance to the Rainforest as long as they can provide proof”.
Residents want the 30 percent in line with the Community Share Ownership Trust scheme introduced by President Mugabe in 2012.
In a recent interview, Victoria Falls Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube said the municipality was engaging authorities over the issue.
“It’s absolutely true that the Rainforest is what makes Victoria Falls and it is part of our natural heritage as locals hence it makes a lot of sense that local people should benefit out of the economic royalties,” he said.
“Victoria Falls Rainforest is our only resource since we don’t have gold or diamonds. We wish government could give an ear to our plea for a share”.