Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Those who are supporting the Santonga Project, a zoo construction disguised as a theme park, must certainly not be taken seriously in a tourist resort where all and sundry agree that the place must be kept as natural and in the past.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s prime tourist destination, has been unsettled and rattled by the zoo project, dubbed the Santonga Project, which the progressive-thinking — from individuals to businessmen and politicians — say is being disguised as a theme park to fool the Government and its people.
The Victoria Falls Municipality has already developed jelly feet on the project and given the anti-corruption drive the Government has taken in recent months, this villager sees some people soon donning the infamous khaki prison garb.
While Africa Albida says Santonga Project will create 1 500 jobs, it will destroy double the amount or more, given the downstream effects of the safari industry premised on sunrise and sunset game drives in Victoria falls; things will certainly fall apart.
The progressive-thinking insist that allowing the project to continue is akin to being the proverbial fly that followed a corpse into grave and got buried with it. It will be the end of Victoria Falls.
Many in Victoria Falls believe, and rightfully so, that the project will kill the natural state of Victoria Falls and even drive away the wildlife that roams wild and free. A zoo is a madman’s far-fetched dream. It is an illusion, whichever way you package it, even if you apply cosmetics.
Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, a fly without an advisor follows a corpse into the grave and gets buried with the corpse.
Karitundundu, the ageless autochthon of wisdom and knowledge, says no amount of cosmetic can beautify a frog. The Santonga Project, as it stands today, is filthy ugly.
Africa Albida, which apparently has not mastered statecraft, is running on verbal support from irrelevant Government ministries, circumventing laid down procedures, typical of the proverbial village idiot, who attempts to yoke an ox from the tail and not neck. It is time to reflect and re-look at the project.
This villager has investigated the Santonga Project in full and realised that there is really no agreement on the ground, with the land-allocating authority for the construction of the zoo project and that Africa Albida was actually beginning to apply for leasing the land from Government and that lease is granted by the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, not the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
In fact, it sounds as if Africa Albida Tourism wants to proceed with the project then regularise the paperwork later.
This villager is in possession of documentation in the communication matrix of the project that will tell the real story for the Santonga Project for many weeks to come. In fact, it is fact and not fiction that Africa Albida is actually trying to get new lease agreements even for Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. The current lease expires a few moons from now.
This villager can break news right away and tell you that Africa Albida actually owes Government a lot of money in unpaid land lease rates yet it wants us to think that it is filthy rich to the point of investing $18 million in Victoria Falls. The figure of the investment at times is stated as $3,5 million and when it is convenient it is stated as $18 million. Only a dimwit will be sold the Santonga Project story and accept it as it is.
For a veteran journalist like this villager, yes, a veteran of 21 years of writing, should give me that edge among my colleagues who accept hook, line and sinker the Santonga Project story and just retell it from Africa Albida’s perspective. Certainly not me! I will not follow a corpse into the grave and get buried with it. Never!
This villager will also tell you that at the recent Indaba Travel and Tourism Expo in Durban, South Africa the Santonga Project took centre stage, with Africa Albida selling the project to Zimbabweans who had gone there to exhibit, among them senior Government officials.
It needed foreign land far, far and far away from the “madding crowd” of Victoria Falls, to strategise on how to circumvent all the voices of reason and go ahead with the project.
This villager does not really want to go lyrically Shakespearean, but is tempted to say it takes bad people to allow the evil to prevail. With friends like Africa Albida Tourism, who needs enemies for Victoria Falls?
The following weeks will see this son of the soil unpack the Santonga Project.
It is interesting how Rhodesian Front soldiers always regroup in Zimbabwe, disguised as bonafide, credible and patriotic citizens when their capitalistic predatory instincts prod them. Karitundundu weeee!