THE SADC community is likely to expedite the adoption of a new streamlined visa system after the regional bloc yesterday further committed itself to the introduction of the UNI-VISA system. This was the major outcome of the Ministerial Roundtable meeting that was held here at the UNWTO General Assembly yesterday.
In an interview, outgoing Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Engineer Walter Mzembi said the UNWTO was impressed by the stance taken by the SADC community on a facilitative visa system.
“We brought in the SADC chair Dr Joyce Banda wearing the hats of the entire 14 SADC member states.
“I think she had a powerful policy statement that was tabled during the Ministerial round table which surprised even the UNWTO secretary-general, because after she spoke he said ‘you are speaking our language so what is the problem.”
Malawian President Joyce Banda, who is also the chair of SADC, arrived at Victoria Falls Airport yesterday morning ahead of the Ministerial Roundtable meeting.
Minister Mzembi said at policy level, Zimbabwe, Zambia and SADC on general had shown their commitment to opening their borders to facilitate tourism.
He however lamented what he termed “bureaucratic inertia.”
“The problem is on implementation and again we state what we want to see as politicians, the guys who draw us back normally are the bureaucrats and essentially what we want to see going forward is more and more of these statements at the highest level .
“What President Mugabe said yesterday was a very fundamental statement to say that ok you have opened the borders between Zambia and Zimbabwe for this UNWTO, why cannot this happen everyday.
“If a President says that he is basically telling you to start moving immediately. We don’t want to see us regressing to the pre-UNWTO General Assembly days when these borders were closed for certain people between certain hours, or people cannot move because there is no facilitation for free movement.
“Otherwise the bureaucrats and their systems are slowing down the process. It’s bureaucratic inertia that is at play here,” he said.
Officially opening the UNWTO General assembly during the weekend, President Mugabe said there was need to make open borders a standard.
“The type of seamless border between Livingstone town and Victoria Falls town that has been put in place for purposes of this conference should become the rule rather than the exception, for all adjacent touristic border communities throughout SADC, and ultimately throughout Africa.
Africa can only benefit from increasingly behaving like a single common market,” he said.
Southern Africa is already making some strides into the implementation of a UNI-VISA for the region through work that is being done by the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA).
It is anticipated that introduction of the UNI-VISA in the SADC region can create positive economic benefits for the performance of those countries, particularly in terms of job creation, financial impact, fiscal revenue and growth in national Gross Domestic Product.