Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
The Uni-Visa regime between Zimbabwe and Zambia, piloted during the 2014 United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly co-hosted by the two countries, has collapsed casting doubts about plans to roll it out in the region.
Tourism and Hospitality Minister Industry Minister Walter Mzembi confirmed the visa regime was no longer functional saying the reason proffered was that Zambia had run out of the special type of paper used for printing the visa.
The idea was first mooted to enhance movement of tourists during the 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in August 2014, the second such event in Africa after Senegal in 2004.
The Kavango-Zambezi Uni-Visa was valid for 30 days as long as the holder of the visa remained in Zimbabwe or Zambia. Visitors could cross into Zimbabwe or Zambia as frequently as they like within the 30 day period.
If obtained at Victoria Falls border post and the visitor crossed over to Zimbabwe at either Kariba or Chirundu or vice versa, the visa would still be valid.
The Uni-Visa also covered those tourists who wanted to visit Botswana for day trips through Kazungula Border Post, but was not valid if staying in Botswana overnight; in such a case travellers needed to purchase a new visa.
Zambia has since advised potential visitors through its embassies that the Uni-Visa is currently not operational, without giving reasons, and that it would advise visitors of its resumption in due course, but did not state when.
This has raised fears that the
suspension of the Uni-Visa regime between the two countries could derail plans to replicate the system into five other countries in the region.
Plans were afoot to extend the Uni-Visa to all countries in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area to promote tourism
and ensure convenience for visitors. It was launched as a six-month pilot programme with the goal of extending it to Namibia, Botswana and Angola and was issued at eight
ports of entry in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Minister Mzembi said he was battling to bring all relevant parties to the operation of the Uni-Visa in both countries to put their heads together in order to salvage the situation.
“The Uni-Visa was first stopped in Zambia, they said Zambia ran out of paper for printing the visa . . . It is a special type of paper, all visas use special paper,” he said.
However, it remains unclear if this was the only reason.
Visitors to Zimbabwe and Zambia can, however, still get the standard visas such as the single and double entry visas, as well as the day-trip visas that are issued in Zambia.