Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
VICTORIA Falls is set to be declared a city on December 9, a day during which President Mnangagwa will be awarded the Freedom of the City in recognition of his contribution to the resort town’s transformation.
The Freedom of City will be the first such honour to be given to anyone by the municipality in the history of the town.
Freedom of the City is the highest honour bestowed by a municipality to a valuable member of the community or to a visiting dignitary and it was historically an honour granted to military organisations allowing them the privilege to freely parade the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets mounted.
Parliament recently approved that Victoria Falls be granted city status after recommendation by a commission set by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo three years ago.
The city status is a milestone and prestigious achievement for Victoria Falls which becomes the first municipality to be upgraded by the Second Republic and first city in Matabeleland North.
It comes as Government has shown commitment to transform the province particularly Victoria Falls which was designated a Special Economic Zone with special focus on tourism.
Minister Moyo had a closed meeting with municipal management on Thursday evening to prepare for the proclamation.
In an interview, Minister Moyo said the President will be in Victoria Falls on December 9 to receive Freedom of City and officially proclaim the city status.
He said Victoria Falls will now compete with other tourism destinations around the world as it will be visible.
Government can now allow the local authority to take water management rights from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), said the minister.
“We came here to prepare for 9 December when the local authority will present Freedom of the City to President Mnangagwa. We expect the President to be making a proclamation of the city on the day. As you know, there are a lot of issues involved in becoming a city and part of this are the qualifications that are needed.
“One of the qualifications is that once the commission recommends it must be debated in Parliament and in this case, the two Houses unanimously supported that the municipality be upgraded to a city. The President is then required to make a proclamation and that is what is going to happen on the 9th of December,” said Minister Moyo.
He said becoming a city will benefit the town and make it better known throughout the world especially as a tourist destination and also benefit residents.
“Once you upgrade a municipality to a city status it also assumes prestige that is reserved for cities. Victoria Falls has been suffering because if you google for a tourist city it does not appear because it is just a municipality,” said Minister Moyo.
“We know that a municipality in some cases does not have powers that are given to cities. We think that with the proclamation that the President is making those powers will be given to the city to pump its own water and have treatment plant and reticulation,” said Minister Moyo.
He said Victoria Falls is central to Zimbabwe’s tourism hence the approval of a Development Plan by the President and Cabinet on improvement of infrastructure in the town to match world tourism destination standards as well as development the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone comprising Masue and Batoka satellite towns, Hwange, Mlibizi, Binga and Sijalila along the Zambezi corridor.
Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conferencing capital and plans to build a multi-purpose convention centre with top-notch facilities such as five-star hotels, medical centre, a university, a Zimbabwe Defence Forces camp and sporting facilities.
Victoria Falls residents are excited about the developments.
“Becoming a city means widening of opportunities for us. As youth we expect to grow with the city especially through capacitation and creation of both educational and job opportunities. We hope to see focus changing towards infrastructure development particularly in education where there is need for a tertiary institution. This puts us on the world map in every aspect,” said Victoria Falls junior mayor Tafadzwa Matsa.
Mr Stevenson Bafana, who operates a grocery shop at Jambezi Business Centre about 50km outside Victoria Falls, said the city will attract more business.
“As businesses we hope this will bring in more big shops and widen options for stocking goods. This will also mean a reduction of prices for people because of competition as well as creation of more job opportunities,” said Mr Bafana.
An informal trader Ms Leonorah Ncube said: “We expect infrastructure to start growing in tandem with the envisioned population growth. We will also need to upgrade our lives and businesses.”
Victoria Falls had 33 000 people in 2012 when the last census was held and population is estimated to have grown to about 40 000. — @ncubeleon