And Victoria Falls Mukuni Curio Traders Association chairperson Fabian Siazibola has confirmed being approached by representatives of the Chinese investor who told them that traders will have to vacate the premises in readiness for the wheel construction.
However, tourism minister Charles Banda says he is not aware that a Chinese investor has been give land at the Victoria Falls but confirmed that some investors had made application for the land in question. Government sources have revealed that part of the Victoria Falls would be run by the Chinese who will put up a play park similar to Disneyland.
The Chinese investor has since been given permission to remove traders from the site to pave way for construction works.
“We have been instructed to give land at the Victoria Falls by the government. The instructions were sent to the Ministry of Tourism from State House. The named Chinese investor (Ju Wenbin) the CEO of China-Africa Cotton Development Limited was even taken on a conducted tour of the Vic Falls accompanied by some directors in the Ministry of Tourism recently,”
the source said.
The source added that the Department of Wildlife and Zambia Environmental Management Agency had not been involved in the land allocation which would have required an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in normal circumstances.
“We informed the government about the dangers of this development with UNESCO, but it seems the PF leadership is in a compromised situation,”
the source added.
When reached for a comment, National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) director Collins Chipote said he was not the best person to give an answer on the issue.
“That you can confirm with the ministry, I may not be the best person to respond to that. Get in touch with the ministry,” said Chipote despite him heading an institution that in charge of heritage sites such as the Victoria Falls.
And Siazibola said the traders would never allow the Chinese to put up the wheel with or without government’s permission.
“Over our dead bodies, we will never allow this to happen. The Victoria Falls is our sacred land as a people of Mukuni village; it is a shrine to us…and it is not for sale even to the highest bidder. We have three shrines here and we will protect them with our lives. Let them take the wheel to the Northern Circuit. I will not be surprised that the PF government will sale Zambia to the Chinese tomorrow,”
He said the Chinese investor was likely to take over the management of the Victoria Falls just like what happened to ZNBC through Top Star.
“We the people of Mukuni village will never allow the Falls to be sold…we also hear that the PF has placed the Kafue National Park for sale. For God’s sake, the PF should slowdown on this reckless path of selling Zambia. Anyway, we know that just like Michael Sata reversed RB’s deals, the next government will have a big job to deal with the PF corruption,”
The Victoria Falls is Zambia’s only World Heritage Site shared with Zimbabwe and UNESCO does not allow any developmental projects that impede the beauty of the site.
A Hungarian investor who had planned to put up a hot air balloon near the Zesco power station was stopped by NHCC a couple of years ago despite having commenced the construction program.
And a hotel project near the old Maramba Cultural Village was also stopped soon after then Republican vice-president Lupando Mwape had laid a foundation stone at the site.
When contacted, Banda said he was not aware that land at the Victoria Falls had been given out, adding that State House had no mandate to allocate land but the Ministry of Lands.
He, however, confirmed that there were applications from some investors for the Victoria Falls land. Asked if a Chinese investor has been allocated land at the site, Banda said he would not be in a position to know.
“I am not aware, at the moment I don’t know who has been given land but applications are there. If anybody has been given, the Ministry of Lands will be able to know. Not State House or my ministry, land is only allocated by the Ministry of Lands,”
State House spokesperson Amos Chanda was constantly busy when phoned for a comment while the Commissioner of Lands was reportedly out of office and his mobile phone was switched off by press time.