TOURISM and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter has rapped the Department of Immigration for dithering around the resumption of a single visa regime with Zambia likening the department’s conduct to sabotage.
Zambia stopped issuing the KAZA visa last year when the extended period of the memorandum of understanding signed with Zimbabwe for the six months pilot period phase expired in December last year.
The KAZA visa was launched in November 2014 for a six month pilot phase to March 2015, but was extended for a further six months to December 31, 2015. Zimbabwe had however continued to issue the KAZA visas, but inexplicably stopped this year amid indications it had run out of visa stickers.
The World Bank had funded the initial 50 000 batches for each of the two countries’ KAZA visas and German bank KFW was keen to finance the next phase.
Although Minister Mzembi wanted the visa to continue, Zimbabwe’s immigration like its Zambia counterpart stopped issuing the KAZA visa in a development that enraged Minister Mzembi, as this negatively affected his vision.
Apparently, the visa remains trapped in bureaucratic entanglements although a technical meeting of the relevant parties recently admitted that there are no substantial issues to stop the visa regime from functioning normally.
Sources said the authorities in both countries were waiting for new stock of visa stickers which are expected to arrive in the two countries early next month.But Minister Mzemebi told The Herald Business that he was unhappy with the way the Department of Immigration has handled the issue, which immigration officials falsely claimed last week had been resolved.
“I am sure my colleague Minister of Home Affairs is not aware of what his officials are doing because I know his efficiency levels are very high,” he said.
He also pointed out that the dithering on the KAZA visa also went against the grain of the spirit called for by President Mugabe; need for open borders.
President Mugabe made the call during his opening speech at 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization general assembly, co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in Victoria Falls in August 2014.
The period coincided with the launch of the first use of the univisa to facilitate movement of visitors during the UNTWO general assembly.
Following resounding success of the visa system at UNTWO it was agreed other KAZA TFCA partners would adopt the system to promote tourism.
Minister Mzembi said that it was dumbfounding that Department of Immigration principal director Clemence Masango did not appreciate the urgency of the matter although he sits on the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority board.He said it would invalidate the purpose he appointed him to the ZTA board if he had to call the Home Affairs Minister about the issue, since the immigration principal is supposed to be the medium for escalation of key issues.
No comment could obtained from Mr Masango as he did not pick calls to his mobile phone yesterday, but immigration officials said the visa is still suspended.
Minister Mzembi said that the success of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, a $1 billion industry which contributes about 11 percent to gross domestic product, was dependent on the competence that “sits in other relevant ministries”.
Investigations by this newspaper this week showed that the system is still mired in bureaucratic mesh with officials in immigration’s visa saying tourists wishing to visit Zimbabwe and Zambia have to apply for normal visas.
The KAZA visa, which was soon to be extended to Botswana, Angola and Namibia (the KAZA TFCA partners) after the expiry of the extended pilot phase between Zimbabwe and Zambia, allowed tourists to visit the two countries without limit over the 90 day period when it would still be valid.
The visa, issued by Zambia and Zimbabwe also enabled visitors to make day trips to Chobe in Botswana, but the visitors would not have to sleep over in that country, having to apply for a Botswana visa if they wanted to sleep over.
A joint communiqué between Zimbabwe and Zambia for the KAZA visa’s resumption was issued early this month in which the two countries committed to work and challenges to the visa system ahead of its resumption.