THE gigantic French-owned houseboat, African Dream, is still stuck at Kazungula Border Post after Botswana’s immigration officials allegedly refused it entrance into the neighbouring country over inadequate documentation.
By Nokuthaba Dlamini
African Dream passed Victoria Falls about a fortnight ago after travelling from Harare for close to a month and has been stuck at the border along with the engineering team guarding it.
The 33-metre long houseboat had successfully been cleared on the Zimbabwean side and was destined for Namibia, where it was supposed to be launched on the Chobe River in Botswana before sailing into the Zambezi River.
Southern Eye visited the boat at the border and was told by the technical team that they were still waiting for confirmation from GDI Engineering head office on how to proceed.
“We do not know what is going on. We have been here for more than a week and we hope that there will be a communication soon,” one of the engineers, Forbes Chimhoga, said, refusing to be drawn into giving further details.
“Chances are high that the boat will be brought back home because Botswana refused to let us through, arguing that we did not have enough documents.”
Sources said the boat was likely to be driven back to Zimbabwe and exit through Zambia.
“Botswana refused entry, arguing that they did not want to clear the boat because it was not made locally. They were arguing that they, too, had capacity to build such boats and they could not allow it to pass through and float in waters in their country. It has nothing to do with documentation, but just sabotage,” a source said
The 157-tonne houseboat was expected to operate as a floating luxury hotel between Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe along Chobe and Zambezi rivers.
The houseboat has a carrying capacity of 360 people and can be hired for special occasions like weddings and conferences.
It also accommodates 32 people and 20 bedrooms, some of them with two beds fitted inside.
It also has a spacious bar and 300 000-litre capacity swimming pool and is powered by two 600-horsepower Volvo engines.
The boat took 10 months to construct at GDI Engineering in Msasa, Harare.
Victoria Falls residents, just like the rest of the country, said they were shocked that the African Dream, which brought business to a halt in each town it passed through, had not reached its destination.
Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha said he was not aware of the developments.
“It’s very unfortunate because I am not conversant with the background to the issue. Much of what you are saying is what I picked up from the Press, but according to the region’s Act, we are supposed to trade freely without any sabotage. We will formally look into it and get the exact details why they (Botswana government) rejected it,” he said.