HEAVY police presence on major highways has created a perception that Zimbabwe “is a police State,” a development that is not friendly for visiting tourists, a local think-tank said at the weekend.
Report by Victoria Mtomba
In a discussion paper entitled Positioning Zimbabwe Tourism Sector for Growth: Issues and Challenges, the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis Research Unit (Zeparu) last week said numerous police roadblocks mounted along the country’s highways were raising unnecessary alarm.
One of the researchers, University of Zimbabwe lecturer Shephered Nyaruwata, said on a recent journey the research team witnessed 20 police roadblocks between Harare and Victoria Falls.
“On major roads, police roadblocks average one per every 20km and one wonders why, and for what purpose,” Nyaruwata said while presenting the findings of the report.
“Although, we were not stopped at all these points the situation is not the same with tourist driving foreign-registered cars. This is mainly because some of the requirements they are looking for from motorist may be different. The feedback we received from some tour operators and hoteliers regarding tourist pestering at police roadblocks were not encouraging at all.
“The perception is that roadblocks portray the country as a police State. The police are regarded as highly corrupt and unfriendly to foreign tourists, ” noted Zeparu in its research.Tourism receipts have increased from $61 million in 2003 to $662 million in 2011 largely as a result of the return of foreign visitors to Zimbabwe over the period under review following a decade long turmoil.
The sector is this year expected to grow by 4% driven by hotels and restaurant growth.
In his 2013 National Budget presentation, Finance minister Tendai Biti said perceptions of a police state as reflected through endless and meaningless road blocks were breeding all kinds of vice.
According to the report, the Harare-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway had more roadblocks than other highways, followed by Masvingo-Mutare highway that had 18.
Compounding challenges facing the sector, Zeparu said, was the lack of co-ordination among government ministries interfacing with the Tourism ministry, among them, Home Affairs, Natural Resources and
Environment, Finance and Education.
“The stakeholders noted that lack of co-ordination has resulted in the private sectors being charged multiplicity of levies by different government departments to a point where it was becoming impossible for business to make reasonable returns
on the investments,” Zeparu added.