Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
TOURISTS are being turned away from the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo after Zesa cut electricity from the facility three weeks ago over a $700 000 debt.
The museum’s director Dr Moira Fitzpatrick said the debt accumulated over the past one and a half years as they were struggling to operate due to Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdowns.
“We are a victim of Covid-19 and we have not had income for the past one and a half years because of the pandemic and we had no tourism. We are at the point now where we cannot afford to pay our electricity bill which stands at about $700 000,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.
“People can come in and see a little bit if they are willing to pay but they aren’t. We have been largely closed for the past three weeks. The offices, those being powered by solar, are open, but largely everything else is closed.”
Before the onset of Covid-19, the museum would receive about 5 000 to 6 000 visitors monthly, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is receiving a little over 1 000. Tourists pay US$10 each and locals pay the equivalent of US$3 per adult and US$1 per child per each visit.
Dr Fitzpatrick said they had made a request through their headquarters in Harare to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage for intervention.
“We fall under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and we requested three weeks ago for the ministry to pay or help us out and we are hoping they will give us some money. We are still waiting and hopeful that they will intervene,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.
She said they had installed solar power for some sections of the museum and the institution needs between US$30 000 and US$40 000 to complete the project.
“We started the first phase, but we could not continue due to Covid and lockdowns. We had the money in reserve to put in solar, but had to use it to keep afloat as an institution and now it’s been exhausted. We would probably need between US$30 000 to US$40 000 for us to complete the solar project,” said Dr Fitzpatrick.
“We do have a bit of solar power, and few of our galleries are lit up and we can’t expect the tourist to pay the entrance fee while we are in darkness. At this point now we can’t receive any income in order to pay our bills such as the Zesa one.”
The museum contains exhibits illustrating the history, mineral wealth and wildlife of Zimbabwe, including the second largest mounted elephant in the world. It is one of the five national museums nationwide and the only natural history museum in Zimbabwe.
It is part of the Heritage Corridor trail that starts at the Inxwala Grounds, The Hanging Tree some metres away from the Inxwala site, headed south on Joshua Mqabuko Street.
The trail continues to the iconic Joshua Mqabuko statue in the middle of Joshua Mqabuko Street and 8th Avenue in the CBD then the St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica Parish, that is found at 9th Avenue and Lobengula Street. Part of the Heritage Corridor takes tourists to the Joshua Nkomo Memorial Museum along Aberdeen Road in Matsheumhlope, some 8km from the CBD. The last leg of the Heritage Corridor tour is Natural History Museum corner Park Road and Leopold Takawira. — @bonganinkunzi