Leonard Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
VICTORIA Falls residents yesterday implored Treasury to set aside funds for construction of a training college for skills development in the resort town.
The residents, contributing during a pre-budget consultation meeting organised by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance at Chinotimba Hall in Victoria Falls, said they were tired of having their views thrown away in the crafting of the national budget.
They alleged the Government was deliberately marginalising Matabeleland region by failing to allocate funds towards building of schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation dams. Participants said youths were lying idle while their counterparts from other areas get jobs from under their nose because there is no college.
They challenged Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa to prioritise capital projects, specifically the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, and infrastructure development and to consider coming up with ideas of growing the national cake without increasing tariffs.
The general consensus among participants who included the elderly and youths was that the resort town is the cash cow of the country’s economy but no revenue was being channelled back to benefit the local community.
The gathering appealed to Treasury to allocate a percentage from revenue generated from local resorts to a provincial purse to steer development.
“Victoria Falls is a tourism area with a lot of activities that bring foreign currency. Let’s have a certain percentage of game parks’ fees and Rainforest entry fees ploughed back to the community towards building a vocational training college as well as a tourism and hospitality college,” said a youth.
It costs $15 per person to enter the game parks while foreign tourists pay $30 to enter the Rainforest where locals each pay $7. Victoria Falls residents have always appealed for exemption from paying entry fees saying the money is too exorbitant for them yet this is their only resource from where they should earn a living. They said as a result, a majority of children in Victoria Falls have never entered the Rainforest, which was ironically examinable in last year’s Ordinary Level final national examination. Victoria Falls Ward 11 Councillor Edmore Zhou said: “We are kindly asking for a piece of cake from Treasury from the money it gets from our local resource. We would be happy even if we get 5 percent of it so we can build schools and roads.”
A resident from Mkhosana Mr Godfrey Dube called for prioritisation of the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road, Gwayi-Shangani Dam, decentralisation of licensing offices and building of science labs in schools around the province.