ZESCO has sold land at the Victoria Falls to Chinese national Ju Wenbin for the construction of a Ferris Wheel.

Ju Wenbin is one of China’s richest men and is the CEO of China-Africa Cotton Development.

In January 2017 chief Mukuni fought with success attempts by State House to offer Ju Wenbin the curio market at the Victoria Falls to erect a Spin-Sational Ferris Wheel.

However, the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) has warned that the said land being within the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site (VFWHS) cannot have a construction of the proposed Ferris Wheel under UNESCO guidelines.

According to correspondences obtained by The Mast, Zesco managing director Victor Mundende on April 15 wrote to Victoria Falls Eye Limited’s lawyers Mosha and Company giving a go-ahead to the firm’s request to survey the land (Lot 473/M) at the Victoria Falls Power Station for subdivision.

The letter, ZESCO REF:MD 298/2020, addressed to Philip Chibundi states that the power company was in consent with Victoria Falls Eye’s request to survey the land.

“Please be advised that we have no objection to your undertaking the survey on the aforementioned portion of our property,” Mundende said.

Another letter from Livingstone town clerk Getrude Chilufya Chibiliti dated April 28 to NHCC south west director reveals a consent from NHCC who are the custodians of the VFWHS to subdivide the land.

Chibiliti informs NHCC in the letter that the council had been requested by the Ministry of Tourism and Arts through its tourism development officer based in Livingstone to give consent for the subdivision of Lot 473/M.

“An investor, Victoria Falls Eye Limited, has shown interest in constructing the Ferris Wheel on the subdivided portion of land. In view of the above, council wishes to engage your organisation as a stakeholder of the site and request a consent letter in order to proceed with the proposed subdivision,” Chibiliti requested.

NHCC in letters to Ju Wenbin and the council dated April 27 and 29 respectively did not object to the subdivision of the land but indicated: “Take note that the area…falls within the Musi-oa-Tunya National Park/Victoria Falls World Heritage Site. In this regard, all activities and planned tourism facilities must conform to, or be compatible with the UNESCO World Heritage Convention Rules and Regulations governing the area.”

An NHCC source warned that Zambia risks having the Victoria Falls placed under ‘endangered’ sites list if the Ferris Wheel is given a go-ahead.

“A shopping mall may be ideal but it’s like these guys are just interested in the wheel going by the name of the company Victoria Falls Eye,” the source said.

Employees are accommodated in some houses on the said land (Lot 473/M) which also includes a Catholic Church, bus station and a market. Zesco in an eviction notice dated April 29 demanded that people leave the area so as to have the properties demolished as they were in a national park against the wildlife Act Number 14 of 2015.

The notice signed by Zesco’s director of legal services McRobby Chiwela was copied to Mundende, the directors of power generation and human resources, and the two labour unions POGAWUZ and MESAWU.

“NOTICE OF EVICTION: Kindly be informed that the area housing the house you reside in is a national park, namely the Musi-oa-Tunya National Park not suitable for human habitation in terms of the Zambia Wildlife Act Number 14 of 2015. We are therefore giving you three months’ notice to vacate the house at hand with effect from 7 May 2020,” Chiwale stated.

He added that the lease agreement allowing tenants to occupy the said houses had also expired, adding that the three months’ notice was a “humanitarian” gesture.

And a wildlife department officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said there has never been any concern raised by the department over the housing units at the power station.

“It is worrying that Zesco has to drag us into this. If there was any correspondence from us, why did they not attach it to the eviction notice? Also strangely this letter giving notice of eviction is not copied to us. Mind you, some of the houses in the area in question belong to us and we have never told them that the area is not suitable for human habitation…,” the wildlife officer said.

The officer added that the area was actually not on the department’s red zones with regards human-animal conflict.

The officer revealed that the said land is still under dispute in the courts of law after another investor – a Hungarian national – was denied permit to install a balloon after being told to construct a bus station so as to displace minibus drivers and traders.