Weekly roundup of news from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, Fourth edition July 2012

AVIATION, TOURISM AND CONSERVATION NEWS from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands.
A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

You can get your daily breaking news updates instantly via Twitter by following @whthome, join me on www.facebook.com/WolfgangHThome where the articles also cross load or read the daily postings on my blog via www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com which you can also follow to get immediate notification when a new article is posted.

Fourth edition July 2012

East Africa News

Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania was the 18th African destination Qatar Airways is now flying to and the 118th international destination overall, as the worlds 5 star airline only recently once again so confirmed by Skytrax annual airline award announcements continues to expand into the African continent.
Kilimanjaro, or JRO as it is known amongst aviation conversant readers, is also the 5th destination for QR in East Africa, where the airline now not only serves the main national aviation hubs of Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali and Dar es Salaam but has commenced in adding other key airports in the region to their expanding network.
The inaugural flight to this key safari gateway to the Northern circuit of Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, Tarangire, Arusha National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro will open up the world for Tanzanias tourism industry with major promotions and marketing, but exporters of produce too will find ready markets when using the available cargo capacity of the daily flight to send cut flowers or fresh vegetables and fruits, most of them organic in nature, to the consumer markets of Qatar, the Gulf countries and beyond.
Next in line will be Mombasa, where the inaugural flight will take place on the 15th of August, before later in the year Zanzibar will make it 7 destinations in the wider region and establish Qatar Airways as THE foreign airline flying to the most places in East Africa. Their flights are adding choices at competitive fares and offer their award winning services to ever more travelers who can now reach the world in one stop rather than having to first fly to one of the main hubs as other airlines make it necessary.
Meanwhile it was also learned that the airline is now actively recruiting airport personnel for the Africa region which has been earmarked as a major expansion market, and the following message was sourced from the LinkedIn page of one of the airlines senior staff based in Abu Dhabi but responsible for airport services in Africa:
Recruiting experienced airport managers and airport staff for Middle East and Africa region. If you have what it takes to work for the ground staff team of the World’s best airline, apply online on gsafricarecruitment Interested readers can apply directly to the email address given.When going places, career wise or when travelling, Qatar Airways clearly seems to airline to look to.

Uganda News

The Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre, in short KAFTC, has recently accomplished another first for Uganda, when the company for formally certified as carbon neutral by the Uganda Carbon Bureau, covering all the companys flight and ground operations. Claims by UCBs press release of a first for Africa though were taken with a grain of salt, as over two years ago it was already reported here that Kenyas SafariLink had attained carbon neutral status, a fact, which when pointed out, prompted an instant holier than thou response questioning the methods used in Kenya, reminiscent of the raging feud between the Catholics and Protestants who represents Jesus on earth and speaks in his name.
The same media release also confirmed that a number of other tourism related companies in Uganda had attained carbon neutral status, such as Classic Africa Safaris, the first ever company in Uganda to become certified, alongside G&C Tours / Wild Frontiers Uganda, the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp and notably Soft Power Education, a Jinja based NGO supporting better education facilities and substantially supported by Nalubale Rafting, the Nile Porch and the Nile River Camp. Lake Mburos Mihingo Lodge too is reportedly at an advance stage of becoming carbon neutral.
In a related development has KAFTC been granted an extension to their Air Service License which will see the company commence scheduled flights to key destinations in Western and Northern Uganda, a move broadly welcomed by the Ugandan tourism fraternity where the demand for tickets per seat has been growing in recent years to move from the costly charter operations, which often include paying for empty legs of positioning and re-positioning the aircraft, to the most user friendly and more affordable per seat reservations.
The Kampala Aero Club and Flight Training Centre operates from their hub at the Kajjansi airfield, some 15 kilometres outside Kampala along the road to Entebbe, where their fleet of 13 single and twin engined aircraft and one helicopter are conveniently based to allow easier access to aviation services. KAFTC also offers acrobatic flights in a two seater Great Lakes biplane, expertly conducted by Capt. Howard Davenport, with prior bookings absolutely necessary. Visit www.flyuganda.com for more information.

A joint team of Ministry of Health and World Health Organization officials has yesterday officially confirmed in Kampala that an outbreak of Ebola has in recent days killed 14 people in the western district of Kibaale, some 200 KM from Ugandas capital city. Samples were tested at Ugandas Virus Research Institute and the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta and both confirmed that it was the deadly Ebola virus which had once again reared its ugly head in the country. Researchers are presently attempting to find the source of the outbreak. According to information received one health worker is amongst those who died as in the early stages of the outbreak a set of well established precautions had not yet been rolled out, and at least 12 members of the same family also were named as amongst the victims. A full isolation of the affected area is in place and tourism sources were swift to point out that the area was not in the immediate vicinity of tourism attractions and visitors were most unlikely to be affected when visiting the country. Uganda has in the past gained global acclaim in dealing with periodic Ebola outbreaks for the comparably lower death rate accomplished through intense care and isolation procedures and past outbreaks were at least in part attributed to having the alpha patient come from across the borders, bringing the disease with them.
The team deployed in Kibaale has indicated that the outbreak is now fully contained and no further spread is expected to take place.

Us Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is due to arrive in Uganda this coming Tuesday for discussions with President Museveni on the renewed crisis in Eastern Congo, where intense fighting has once again displaced tens of thousands of innocent people as sections of the former Rwandan killer militias and other rebels are engaged with Kinshasa regime and UN troops in a fight for control of the rich mining areas.
There has been little sympathy for the US in the region following the cut of military aid to Rwanda over allegations that the government in Kigali was clandestinely supporting a militia thought friendly to them, claims continuously denied by Rwandan officials, and calls have started to re-emerge to allow the Rwandan army officially back into Eastern Congo to sort out the mess which the Kinshasa regime is clearly unable to control or unwilling to resolve. Refugees have been streaming across the borders into Rwanda and Uganda to escape from the intense fighting and both countries are on high alert over fears that anti government rebels may disguise themselves amongst genuine refugees to cross into the neighbouring countries with an altogether more sinister agenda.
Clintons visit follows not long after her husband, former US President Bill Clinton, also visited the region in an effort to promote child health care, though it is thought that he also engaged in discussing other subjects, having been to Uganda during his two terms of office and being well acquainted with the political situation in the wider Great Lakes region.
The conflict in Eastern Congo is generally considered to be a serious threat to political stability and economic development in the Great Lakes region and is affecting neighbouring countries too as trade and travel has slowed down significantly in recent weeks. In particular tourism to the Congolese Virunga National Park has come to a complete halt following fighting in and around the park in recent months and weeks, during which rebels even killed park rangers and there is at present no clear picture of how park staff and the prized mountain gorillas on the Congolese side of the border are faring under these trying circumstances. Watch this space.


Routes Africa, which just celebrated their most successful meeting ever in terms of African and global participation, will move to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa for next year, dates in July 2013 due to be announced soon. The just concluded 2012 conference was held earlier in July at the Kempinski Seychelles Resort on the main island of Mahe. Main host next year will be Ugandas Civil Aviation Authority, which in the past has held a series of very successful regional and continental aviation meetings for ICAO and IATA. The capital Kampala is known to offer first class meeting facilities plus a range of pre- and post conference tours to the countrys national parks, providing the experience of a lifetime. The Ugandan team attending the Routes Africa Conference made history in their own right by presenting a compelling case to the conference organizers that Uganda should be selected as the country for the 2013 event and to no surprise there that they secured the rights to host Routes Africa 2013 in Uganda, which was for the first time ever announced before the ending of the current meeting.
By hosting Routes Africa 2013, the Uganda CAA intends to create added visibility for Entebbe International Airport and Uganda as a whole, to showcase themselves to airlines and the world at large. Speaking during the handover lunch at Routes Africa 2012 in the Seychelles, David Kakuba Mpango, Deputy Managing Director of The Civil Aviation Authority of Uganda said We are absolutely delighted to have been selected as host of Routes Africa in 2013 as there is no better way to push what the country has to offer than for people to come and see it for themselves. We will be opening the doors of Uganda to all Routes delegates and enabling them to enjoy first-hand the hospitality and wonders of the country. We have been attending the Routes Africa and World Routes events for a number of years and were pleased to have been able to agree a new air service with Qatar Airways during the 2010 event in Vancouver in Canada, so we are fully aware of the important role these forums take place in the aviation industry.
David Stroud, Executive Vice President, Routes in his response was quoted as having said: After such a successful event here in the Seychelles we are eagerly awaiting next years event in Uganda; it is the first time we have secured and announced a Routes Africa event host at the previous years event and it is down to the drive and commitment of the Ugandan team. We look forward to Routes Africa 2013 in Uganda next year.
Upon their return home to Entebbe has the Uganda CAA already formed a team to prepare for the 2013 event and make it yet bigger and better, while at present also seeking partnerships with airlines from the region and tourism businesses from within Uganda to promote pre- and post conference tours to see the countrys prized mountain gorillas in the two national parks of Bwindi and Mgahinga, see the main national parks of Queen Elizabeth and Murchisons Falls or visit East Africas adventure capital of Jinja for a spot of rafting the white waters of the upper Nile or spend a few nights enroute there in the RainForest Lodge in Mabira Forest. One thing is sure though already now, the 2013 event is one the aviation industry from the entire Eastern and Central African region will be looking forward to hosting within for the first time and Uganda can be proud to have been selected host country. Well done indeed.

Kenya News

September 28 30 are the dates to mark in the calendar when Kenyas Tourism Board will once again host their Magical Kenya Travel Trade Fair to showcase the countrys attractions to the international market.
Following a highly successful inaugural edition last year, the 2012 event promises to be yet bigger and better with over 100 hosted buyers from the region and the wider world.
A regular source close to KTB has already pointed out that potential exhibitors should place their space orders at the very earliest opportunity to avoid disappointment as the tourism trade show is expected to be a sellout.
For more information on the Magical Kenya Travel Trade Fair contact the Kenya Tourism Board or visit their website via www.magicalkenya.com where details of the event are available and through which booking requests can also be processed.


No stranger to legal controversy, last in the full spotlight of the public when being part of the willful destruction of residences and properties on disputed land, for which the owners of the respective properties claimed to have titles but which KAA insisted was their land, KAA has again been taken to court over contempt issues.
Earlier in the year did KAA instigate the destruction of homes worth hundreds of millions of Kenya Shillings in the face of a court order prohibiting exactly that and in the latest case pending before court with World Duty Free over contractual disputes, they again appear to have willfully violated court instructions as if they were above the law themselves. Both the KAA CEO Stephen Gichuki and the authoritys legal officer, Corporation Secretary Joe Nyaga were served summons to attend a hearing in person over allegations made that they interfered with court orders and acted contrary to instructions given by a judges in the past.
Should the authority and its top officers be found guilty of contempt of court they could face hefty fines and even jail time, something hoped for by those who lost their homes earlier in the year and are also in court with KAA to get compensation and see those responsible punished for the impunity they displayed vis a vis existing court injunctions. Watch this space for upcoming developments in the two cases.

Killian Lugwe, best known in Kampala for heading the team which transformed the former Nile Hotel International into the Kampala Serena Hotel before being posted back to Nairobi at the end of 2010, where after a spell as General Manager of the Nairobi Serena Hotel he now oversees Serenas city hotels in the region, has been appointed by President Kibaki to chair the Hotel and Restaurant Authority. This move was widely hailed as a step into the right direction to professionalize the chairmanships of such bodies and not give such hugely important decisions to political sycophants as was often the case in the past.
Alongside Killian was Caroline Mutoko, a leading broadcasting and media personality in Kenya, appointed as the new chair of the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation, while Anthony Wahome will be chairing the Catering and Tourism Development Levy Trustees Board. The globally acclaimed Kenya Utalii College, Kenyas prized institution of higher learning for the hospitality and tourism industry will be chaired by Gerson Misumi, also a hospitality professional of long standing certain to be adding value to the institution.
The new tourism act of 2011 passed by the Kenyan parliament and made law when President Kibaki affixed his signature to the new bill, has prescribed a number of re-constituted and new parastatal bodies to oversee various functions devolved from the Ministry of Tourism to cater to the needs of Kenyas tourism industry, spur growth through new investments and protect and expand this vital sector for Kenyas economy.
Alongside the presidential appointments of chairs did the current minister for tourism Danson Mwazo then appoint board members for the respective parastatals, details of which are still awaited by the time of going to press.
Congratulations to Killian Lugwe, Caroline Mutoko and Gerson Misumi, those three personally known to this correspondent, and to Anthony Wahome too of course, for success in coming years in their challenging new appointments.

Tanzania News
Airline sources in Tanzania have indicated fresh interest by airlines in flying to Kilimanjaro International Airport following the successful market entry by Qatar Airways on the 25th of July.
We know that Emirates and Turkish have been sniffing around after it was made public that QR will come to JRO in July. I think they see Qatar Airways come into East Africa in a big way, threatening their own growth plans, and they may now have to think of adding secondary airports besides the main hubs in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Entebbe. Qatar Airways has an advantage going into such places like JRO and next month to Mombasa and then Zanzibar, because they use a single aisle A320 which provides sufficient capacity when starting a new route while Emirates for instance only has wide body aircraft. With Turkish they could use their
B737-800 but then first they need the aircraft to expand without putting into doubt their other plans for Africa to go this year to 30 and next year to 40 destinations. But Qatar Airways has rattled the market for sure. As you pointed out, they will by end of the year fly to 7 destinations in East Africa and then only Bujumbura will be missing from their list. That was a smart move because people now fly from JRO and not need to go to Dar or Nairobi first which makes it convenient and safes a lot of travelling time. There is a big market for such travel and QR saw it first, so I give them my compliments
said a regular aviation source from Dar es Salaam when asked to confirm talk that indeed other major airlines had renewed interest in adding a second gateway for Tanzania with Kilimanjaro, which would of course enormously benefit the tourism industry in the country with direct access to the famous Northern circuit national parks.
Game opener some years ago was KLM, which is now flying daily to Kilimanjaro and also serves Dar es Salaam, leaving other airlines to connect via Nairobi or Dar es Salaam on regional or domestic flights to reach JRO, something Qatar Airways clearly saw as an open invitation to make this their second Tanzanian destination before later in the year Zanzibar will be added, making it three.
Watch this space to find out if and when additional airlines make their formal announcements to include Kilimanjaro International in their African network.

Recent reports in sections of the East African media, alleging deliberate attempts by TANAPA and SENAPA to keep the annual migration of wildebeest into the Masai Mara, have not only been denied strenuously by Tanzanian officials but by the look of it lack all merit or credibility.
According to reports from the Masai Mara, and in fact from individuals on site throughout the year, the migration has reached the Mara River and several major crossings have already been recorded as the wildebeest amassed at the river, preparing for more crossings.
A regular source, on condition of anonymity, from within the Tanzanian wildlife management body, in fact wrote to this correspondent with the request to publish the truth: Those who wrote that were full of mischief, did not know the facts at all and tried to make political capital out of it. We are professionals, we know the impact it would have on the herds if they cannot get to pasture in Masai Mara. They would starve, we would lose a lot of animals. How can anyone in their right mind suggest we would risk this or be part of it. This is stuff for movies on conspiracies. We have no conspiracies here at all. Even in the Masai Mara they are burning blocks which they do every few years to regenerate vegetation. At one point the wildebeest were on our side of the river and could not cross because there was a scheduled burning of a certain area in the Mara triangle. Let us all calm down and let those so called journalists be exposed for what they are. They are liars and quacks and have a hidden agenda to stir trouble and sow discord.
True enough in fact did word come down from the Mara Triangle Facebook page that there was indeed a delayed burning of a certain block last fired in 2007, and that due to rains the burning had to be delayed and a significant number of wildebeest were at the time across the river waiting to cross.
We apologise for the smoke caused by our controlled fire yesterday which unfortunately coincided with the first wildebeest massing along the river. The fire was supposed to take place last week but it was postponed till the rain subsided and grass dried up. Each Year MT practice controlled fire for rangeland management and it is usually done before high season (this year it was hugely delayed due to continuous non-stop rain in the triangle). The fire is set within firebreaks (the main roads) and each block is given several years rest. The timing of the fire is determined by expected rain from satellite weather forecast. Yesterday’s block from BBC lugga, Nyumba Nane to Maji ma chafu was last burnt in 2007. We use control burning to clear out old grass which is not eaten by most species and to encourage new growth for species such as Thomson’s gazelle and wildebeests. There is a FB note we written on pros and cons of fire last year for those who are interested in the details. I hope this answers the questions posted by people and once again we apologise for the smoke and the timing of the fire. ( https://www.facebook.com/maratriangle)
So, no mischief, no conspiracy and for sure no intent to keep the annual migration of the wildebeest out of the Kenyan Masai Mara but a lot of hogwash, invented by gutter journalists of the worst kind whose paymasters and ear whisperers should be equally exposed to get to the bottom of this totally unjustified anti Tanzania campaign.

in closing today, courtesy of Gill Stadens The Livingstone Weekly, some worthwhile reads from further down south and my oh my, many of their problems appears to be just mirror images of our own here in equatorial East Africa at least we no longer have currency controls in the East African Community nor had 3 ½ ministers of tourism in a 10 months period but then, we thankfully have an old fox at the helm of our country and not a novice propelled into office with no experience of governance, who has to learn the tricks of the trade while on the job

Another week of turmoil

As if it wasnt enough that the tourism industry is reeling from the effects of the new currency control measures by using kwacha only for its operations, the government has now issued new minimum wages with effect from 4 July.

People who cannot afford a 67% increase in their wage bill have decided to also lay off or put on part-time. Other companies are still in shock …

The Zambia Federation of Employers has stated that these increases were put in place without consultation and are impractical.

Here is a comment from the Zambia Weekly:
NEW MINIMUM WAGES: It seems to me rather counterproductive to increase the minimum wage by 67% … in a country of about 10% formal employment. The labour-intensive (and much talked about mine-diversifying) industries such as agriculture and tourism will be hard hit by this. No employer will be able to simply increase their wage bill by 67%, and if the increase cannot be passed on to the consumers (welcome to higher prices!), employers will have to lay off people. Surely it must be better to employ more people on lower wages than few people on higher wages?

Effects of the New Currency Controls

There are just a few sad stories coming in about the new currency controls. The financial impact which it has had on the Zambia tourism industry is huge, as we know. Some prices for tourist activities have been hiked by around 20%. Although the exchange rate for the kwacha has changed from US$1 = K5,200 to US$1 = K4,700 the operators have to cover their costs and they cannot expect it to stay that way.

I have heard from several border posts that the money changers are there in force now. With no bureaus at some borders and the tourists unable to pay in foreign currency, the (illegal???) money changers are having a great time ripping off unsuspecting travellers.

And Livingstone has gone very quiet … Do you think that all the South African travellers who are on the road right now are maybe going into Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia because they might have heard some news about no more rand in Zambia???

Interestingly there is an article in the Zambia Weekly:

The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has argued that the statutory instrument (SI), which bans foreign currency as legal tender in Zambia, is illegal. It pointed out that the SI refers to the Bank of Zambia Act of 2012, which LAZ had not heard of. Secondly, on the assumption that the SI was issued pursuant to the Bank of Zambia Act of 1996, we wish to state that the SI is inconsistent with the said enabling legislation, the Constitution of Zambia and other laws, LAZ wrote in a letter to Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda quoted in the Post. According to LAZ, the use of foreign currency can only be prohibited if exchange controls were imposed through an Act of Parliament: The attempt by Ministry of Finance to exercise such a power through the SI appears to be totally misplaced, the letter continued.

New Minister of Tourism

We are now on Minister of Tourism Number 3½. Given Lubinda has had the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism cut down to Foreign Affairs only. Sylvia Masebo has become the new Minister of Tourism and Arts.

The new government was elected in September last year. At first we had Given Lubinda as Minister of Tourism, then we had Fackson Shamenda, then we had Given Lubinda back again. Now we have Sylvia Masebo. Because we have had Given Lubinda twice, I cannot say we have had 4 ministers, which is the reason for the 3½. So, in 10 months we have had four changes at the top of the tourism industry. With the run up to the UNWTO it does not bode well for our performance, unless, of course, Sylvia Masebo can work some miracle. I know that the Livingstone Tourism Association executive will not feel like yet another briefing on the state of tourism in Livingstone. But I expect, Kingsley Lilamono will manage …

Add to that the fact that we are on Southern Province Minister number Three.

Mana Pools World Heritage Site
From the Zambezi Society

We as the Zambezi Society are aware of the proposed mine and have contacted the company proposing this mine to inform us of exactly what it is they intend to do and how. The information that we have gathered – together with other concerned organisations – is that prospecting/exploration licences have been granted (Sept. 2011) to GeoAssociates, a locally owned company to undertake exploration Activities for Heavy Mineral Sand Deposits (HMSD) in Ruckomechi and Chewore rivers. The licences cover an area from the escarpment to the Zambezi River (45km for Ruckomechi and 65km for Chewore).

According to Mr. Chimbodza (the CEO of GeoAssociates, email: cpaul@earth.co.zw), the Zambezi valley was chosen due to its richness in HMSD, as well as the fact that the company is aware that the Ministry of Water is in the process of desilting rivers in the country, so the proposed project would be in line with that. He says that this will be the first mining of this kind in Zimbabwe. The company also presently mines gold, industrial minerals etc in different parts of the country. The Zambezi valley is the most abundant area in terms of HMSD and this is where they intend to mine. They are not considering alternative sites for the project. The local Mining company has external partners (investors) who insisted that an EIA be done.

The EIA consultants are Impact Assessment Consultancy (IMPACO), and the focal point is Mr. Itayi, contact details (cell: 0772264107 or 0775884176; email: itaigc@impaco.org).

The proposed mine will be in the UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS), a site that includes Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas. Its status as a WHS means that it is “a property of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) because of its cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity. As such, the permanent protection of this heritage is of the highest importance, (not only to Zimbabweans) but to the international community as a whole”.

Given the gravity and the need for action on this situation, the Zambezi Society convened a meeting with the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (SOAZ); National Museums and Monuments, Zimbabwe; Lower Zambezi Tour Operators; and UNESCO National Commission on the 10th July 2012 in order to address this issue. From this meeting, a committee was formed to prepare a report/position paper on the legal and technical issues pertaining to this proposed venture.

Meanwhile, a letter has been sent to IMPACO and the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to request an extension on the deadline of July 17th for the submission of comments on the proposed project as the committee is in the process of investigating the situation.

We are aware of other organisations which are objecting to the mining development and we intend to engage with them to form a group of even greater impact. To this end please could any organisations that wish to join hands/forces contact us at the contact details indicated below.

We will keep you informed of the situation as it develops and welcome any comments and suggestions that you might have on this issue.

This is the map I used the other week to show the Vine Lodge Site and the Kangaluwi Mine Site. Now I have two more red lines the Rukomechi and Chewore River – to add to the onslaught of our natural heritage …

In the meantime, in Zambia, the local communities are coming out against the wishes of their Chiefs about the proposed mine at Kangaluwi:

Once this project starts, tourism will be killed and jobs will be lost because tourists will stop coming here as there will be no more animals and birds to watch, and the land allocated to the project, if it comes to fruition, will not be good enough for sustenance of wildlife or agriculture due to chemicals and other contagious contaminants.

Some history buffs wanted by Peter Jones from the River Club

Recently I overheard an Old All Black who had toured South Africa in the first series after the war (1949). They had played a game in Bulawayo (and lost 10-8) and he remembered taking a train to Vic Falls. They had interrupted their sightseeing to play a pick up game and he thought the ground where they played was the other side of the bridge! If this is true then it would have been in Northern Rhodesia.

Can this be true? There is nothing in the official records that I can find but I thought someone who lived in Livingstone in the late 40’s might remember this. Playing the All Blacks would surely not be forgotten even if it was an unofficial game.

By the way the tour lasted 23 weeks and nobody got paid anything except a touring allowance of 5 shillings a day. How things have changed.

Tracks of Giants
Thanks to Sean from Zambezi Memories for the photos

This week Ian Michler and Ian McCallum arrived in Livingstone while on their 5,000 km trek through southern Africa. They aim to raise awareness of wildlife and the need for animal corridors, notably elephant, and to learn from the local communities how best to care for our environment.

The two Ians arrived by kayak at The Waterfront, having spent the previous night on Bovu Island. They were accompanied by their backup team, various other supporters and film crew of one.

They are now at about their halfway point having walked, cycled or canoed from the Skeleton Coast across the Namib Desert, into Botswana and through the Okavango; up to the Chobe River and then along that into the Zambezi River to Livingstone. They have yet to explore areas of Zimbabwe, back into Botswana then into South Africa and Mozambique.

Both Ians are fully fit, happy and having a good time. They have lots of stories to tell including the one about the territorial crocodiles in the Okavango which attacked their canoes.

The day after their arrival in Livingstone, they held a meeting at Toka Leya with some environmentalists and community people. I packed two cameras and trotted off to listen.

On the way in to Toka Leya I was held up for about 20 minutes by this rather large animal which refused to get away from the road. I enjoyed watching him and took some photos. I noticed that my camera battery was going flat …no problem, I had my other camera … I got it out … that had a flat battery too …

On arrival at Toka Leya I was late so I hurried to find the meeting … and forgot my notebook … Such professionalism! Francis Jackson was there from the Zambezi Traveller so I am sure she will give us a much better report.

It was interesting to hear from Chief Sekute. He commented that in the old days the people took care of their environment but they dont do it now. He attributed this to the lack of ownership of their land. Over the years government had taken over the land and labelled it Game Management Areas or Forestry Areas or whatever. Also, those chiefs who had land which was now labelled Game Management Area earned an income from government through the sale of hunting. But chiefs like Chief Sekute earned nothing because his area was Forestry and there was no income from government outside people just came and cut down the trees. I think, for me, this was the most important point which was brought up.

The two Ians made notes and commented now and again. But, for them, it was more about listening. They said that they had met with many community leaders during their travels and their aim was to put all the information in a book. They want to change the way we look at our environment and how we can manage it to make it sustainable for the benefit of the wildlife and the people too.

I am looking forward to the book, but, in the meantime will continue to watch their website to see where they go and what they get up to. They left Livingstone on their bicycles to ride to Deka … a short 80 km run. After that they will be off into Hwange.

And here a case where the culprit can truly claim to be illiterate…

UNWTO Preparations

Last week I wrote about Zambia having its fourth change of Minister of Tourism since September and its elections. This, of course, has rather dire consequences for the preparations for the UNWTO in August next year. Our new Minister, Sylvia Masebo, has the task of acquainting herself with the tourism industry in Zambia, especially in Livingstone, and trying, at this late stage to get the town ready.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, it would appear that things are going equally awry. From an article in allAfrica.com it is stated that although the Zimbabwe government was splashing its huge plans across the media, it has in fact done very little and there is doubt that these pledges will be met.

In February 2012 I reported in the Livingstone Weekly:
As part of the work to be done prior to the meeting Mr Mzembi mentioned a convention centre, hotels, villas and shopping mall in Victoria Falls Town; upgrading of Victoria Falls, Bulawayo and Harare airports.
He also mentioned road rehabilitation, health care facilities, a theme park, a museum, exhibition parks and halls, broadband and information technology, and a clean and safe water supply in Victoria Falls Town.

We are now in July, one year away from the UNWTO and things are not going according to plan. Earlier this month Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism in Zimbabwe announced to parliament that that there was still no decision on where to build the planned business centre. A 1,200 hectare site had been identified for shopping malls, casinos, theme park and other projects, but that is as far as it has gone.

From allAfrica.com:
It got worse. Tourism secretary Sylvester Maunganidze delivered the clincher when he revealed Zimbabwe lied about the state of its infrastructure in order to win the bid to host tourism’s biggest global event.
“We made our bids using electronic presentations which we manipulated because we were competing,” he confessed before parliament’s Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism portfolio committee … “If other players don’t play ball, there will be an imaginary Victoria Falls which I have sold very well to the world, but which is not there.”

This week too, Permanent Secretary for Tourism, Munesu Munodawafa stated that he felt that government should abandon its ambitions to build the planned 4,000-seater convention centre as it was no longer possible to complete the project in time for the UNWTO. He felt that a semi-permanent structure should be erected instead.

UNWTO officials are on their way to us here in Victoria Falls Town and Livingstone in August. What will we tell them?