PRESIDENT Mnangagwa arrived in Victoria Falls yesterday evening and will today officially confer the prestigious city status to the resort town, in another milestone achievement for Matabeleland North Province under the Second Republic.
The upgrading of the town fits well into the broader development of Matabeleland North, which has recently become the economic epicentre in the country. The new dispensation is focused on driving robust economic transformation of the province through unlocking its vast investment potential so that it contributes more to the mainstream economy.
Under the Second Republic, Government has activated several projects which had been in limbo for years and are now in various stages towards completion. Among these is the giant Gwayi-Shangani Dam, the 15 000 ha Bulawayo Kraal Irrigation Scheme, Hwange Power Station’s units 7 and 8 expansion, Lupane Provincial Hospital, civil servants houses and Elitsheni Government Complex. President Mnangagwa’s Government has also facilitated massive coal to energy investment projects in Hwange, worth millions of dollars, which have brought life to the mining town that was on the brink of being a ghost town.
The Second Republic has also moved swiftly to operationalise the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone, whose crowning moment was the establishment of the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX) in October. Under this framework, the town is poised to be the financial and tourism hub of Zimbabwe.
The conferment of city status to the resort town, thus, comes in to buttress the combined development of Matabeleland North Province as a key component of transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by 2030. An official proclamation through Statutory Instrument (SI) 285 of 2020 was made yesterday in terms of the Urban Councils Act, officially upgrading Victoria Falls into a city.
Today’s programme will also see the local authority present the Freedom of the City honours to President Mnangagwa for his contribution to the growth of the town. This is the highest honour bestowed by a council to a valuable member of the community or to a visiting dignitary. It will be the first such honour to be given to anyone by the municipality in the history of the town and the first for President Mnangagwa as Head of State.
President Mnangagwa landed at the Victoria Falls International Airport at 6.30pm aboard an Air Zimbabwe aircraft and was accompanied by Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and several other Government officials.
He was welcomed by Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo, Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda, Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo and his deputy Marian Chombo, Victoria Falls mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini and service chiefs.
By day end yesterday, workmen and council officials were busy making final touches to the venue at Kingdom Hotel.
A big banner had been erected at the hotel entrance announcing the birth of a “green city”.
Inside the venue decoration had been done with indication of the high-level guests expected to grace the event. City fathers from Livingstone in Zambia, as well as from Kasane and Francistown in Botswana are also expected to attend the ceremony.
According to the programme, the two Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi are expected to be present.
Official proceedings will start at the council offices where President Mnangagwa will meet council officials before unveiling a remembrance plaque and then proceed to the main venue.
Councillors and management will lead the entrance into the venue with a procession, which will result in reading of the proclamation by Local Government Minister Moyo and reading of notice for the city of Victoria Falls’ first special full council by town clerk Mr Ronnie Dube, marking start of main proceedings for the day.
Minister Moyo, who has been in Victoria Falls for the past few days to oversee preparations for the day, said the new city is in ecstatic mood.
“So tomorrow (today) and Thursday are big days for Victoria Falls and this comes on the backdrop of the President having been here to officially open some hotels. The council will also showcase a number of other upcoming hotels in its jurisdiction,” said the minister.
“This ceremony will be officious with its dignity and decorum and all of us will be observing. It will be like a council in session, just like the Parliament because council is a parliament. The mayor will be there and the President will take the mayor’s seat the same way he takes over the Speaker of Parliament’s seat when officially opening Parliament session,” explained Minister Moyo.
President Mnangagwa would also use the opportunity to ponder on his experiences during the liberation war as it is at the Victoria Falls Bridge where he was released by the colonial regime.
“The new city has prepared very well. They are graduating from municipality to city and the morale is very high.
Also, the euphoria about the President coming to Victoria Falls to receive the Freedom of the City and also confer the city status is very important. There will be a plaque to tell the President’s life story of how he was freed at the Victoria Falls Bridge,” said Minister Moyo.
He said the Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga) conference will also take place tomorrow at the same venue where all female councillors from across the country will have an opportunity to speak to the President about their challenges and make proposals on how they want their issues addressed.
With the city status, Victoria Falls will assume prestige that is reserved for cities and now compete with other tourism destinations globally.
This will also make the tourism town a well sought-after investment destination, with potential for more twinning relationships with other cities around the world.
Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conferencing capital and plans to build a multi-purpose convention centre with top-notch facilities such as five-star hotels, medical centre, a university, a Zimbabwe Defence Forces camp and sporting facilities.
Victoria Falls was designated a Special Economic Zone with special focus on tourism as Government has committed itself to transform Matabeleland North and improve infrastructure to match world tourism destination standards as well as develop the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone comprising Masue and Batoka satellite towns, Hwange, Mlibizi, Binga and Sijalila along the Zambezi corridor.-Herald