When will we enjoy what is rightfully ours?

Op5Beatrice Tonhodzayi-Ngondo
Some years ago, a group of female musicians got together under the name “Ruvhuvhuto Sisters” and produced some music.
One of the tracks they produced had lyrics that ran like this; “Come to Victoria Falls, down in Zimbabwe.” As is the case with music, there are moments when you suddenly find yourself singing along to a particular song for no reason. That song can play in your head over and over as you shower, drive and do errands and you will find that it becomes one of your very best songs, at least for the day or week. Then another one will start playing in your mind again. Such is the power of music. Usually, I find that lyrics or the message in a song can do that. Or a memory in the mind can just trigger a song out of nowhere.

I had a moment like that recently. I found myself in Vumba for some work commitments.

The first thing to cross my mind as I drove up to Vumba from Mutare was “Goodness; Zimbabwe is beautiful!” It is by no means the first time I have gone up that area but this time around, the emotion invoked was extraordinary. Continuing up the mountainous areas, the urge to shout it from the mountaintop that my country is beautiful grew stronger and stronger and then from nowhere, that particular song started playing in my head.

Funny enough, in my mind, the lyrics changed and the song started playing this way: “Come to the Vumba up in Manicaland.” I felt this swelling, this pride to be Zimbabwean.

The magnificent splendour of the Vumba is one that needs to be seen to be understood. As I approached my destination, which was Leopard Rock, the feeling grew stronger that there is need for Zimbabweans to enjoy that which is ours.

Of course we welcome the foreign visitors, the tourists; for the obvious benefits that their coming would bring.
But it is high time that Zimbabweans too, begin to enjoy that which is theirs.

Or else the situation that is prevailing at some of these formerly very busy resorts and tourist attractions will continue. Some have become ghosts of their former selves, struggling for 100 percent occupancy while restaurants are virtually always empty.

While this sad state of affairs prevails, do you know there is a significant number of Zimbabweans who have never been to the Vumba? Do you know there are many Zimbabweans who have never seen the Victoria Falls? Do you know that some people have never gone to the Nyangani Mountains or even to Kariba? The Great Zimbabwe Ruins we talk of are something that some children of this soil only see on pictures in textbooks. The animals in our game parks remain something many Zimbabweans only read about in the Press.

Similarly, the resorts in our country are something that only foreigners will enjoy while those locals lucky enough to enjoy the facilities may only do so through workshops and conferences that are paid for by their organisations.

One thing that stands out about South Africa is that the locals enjoy their natural gifts; the resorts and wonders they are blessed with. Go to Durban at any time and you will find that South Africans from other cities will also be part of the crowds thronging the beaches. The same applies in Cape Town and many other places. South Africans enjoy their country. Incentives such as cheaper flights have even been introduced so that locals do not have to pay an arm and a leg to travel in between their own cities and towns.

But here in my home country, I am saddened that lodges, hotels, holiday cottages and resorts are underutilised today because we choose to ignore the potential that domestic tourism presents.

Today we have a working class that dreams of going on holiday. The reasons are obvious. The costs charged by these hotels, lodges, cottages, resorts — wherever they may fall — are ridiculous.

After moving around the Vumba and seeing that things are no longer as they used to be; and all the hustle and bustle is gone, I posted an invite to my Facebook friends to ‘come to the Vumba’ and experience the beauty that Zimbabwe has to offer. The response from many of them; and these are professionals from across the spectrum, including the Non-Governmental Organisation sector, the corporate sector, business people, the academia, among others, was that in Zimbabwe holidays have become a preserve for the elite while hotels and resorts are now more utilised by the ‘workshop’ crowds. Ordinary people cannot even show their children the Kariba Dam because what is charged by hotels and lodges in these tourist areas is crazy.

As the discussion continued, people called for locals who develop their own holiday cottages, let them out cheaply so that locals can afford to go to these resorts and see the beauty of Zimbabwe’s grandeur. Others called for cheaper rates charged to locals so that they can enjoy their God-give wonders. I would like to call upon the responsible authorities to see how they can seriously address this matter. Zimbabwe is ours. We can enjoy it. While we enjoy it, we can grow the tourism sector.

With dollarisation, even a few dollars will make a difference to our places of interest, which are clearly in a bad state. There are hotels that were last renovated ages ago. There are gardens and yards which are being manned by three people instead of 20 because business is not good. Many in the hospitality industry are losing jobs.

Instead of hiring qualified people, the operators in the industry are recruiting people from the streets who they can pay little because they cannot afford to pay decent wages. What makes it worse is that these hotels, lodges, chalets, cottages, and others continue to charge ridiculous amounts, thereby keeping those who can spare a little bit away. Maybe it is time we realise that making something is better than making nothing. Let us allow Zimbabweans to enjoy Zimbabwe too. A difference will surely come out of it.

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