The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) has described as ”scandalous” the decision by Zimbabwe to spend up to $67-million on sprucing up hotels and its infrastructure to cash in on the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa.
”It’s a disgrace. It’s a tragedy to try to create world-class facilities in a situation of misery,” CZC spokesperson Elinor Sisulu said, describing Zimbabwe as a ”big blot on the world”.
Next week Zimbabwe will play host to a delegation of Fifa officials.
”The Fifa officials will assess the capacity of Zimbabwe to host visitors for 2010,” Karikoga Kaseke, chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said.
”They have specifically requested to see three- to five-star hotels in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, as well as other service facilities in the tourism sector.”
Some of the hotels to be inspected are the Monomotapa Crowne Plaza, Meikles in Harare and the Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls.
Zimbabwean officials are hoping the football spectacle will inject life into a comatose tourism sector that has not been spared the difficulties being experienced by other sectors of the economy following the chaotic land reform of 2000.
Shingi Munyeza, chief executive of the ZimSun hotel group, said the group intends to add up to 1 000 rooms at a cost of about $50-million.
Construction is set to begin next year. He said the group is in talks with the government about lengthening the runway at the Victoria Falls airport from the present 2,6km to 4km — ”so that it can accommodate bigger aircraft”.
Zimbabwe plans to host training camps, accommodation and fan parks for teams and visitors during the tournament.
As part of the renovations, Harare’s Rufaro Stadium was closed last month to install new turf, a move that has been contested by the Premier Soccer League.
The government has also weighed into the wrangle.
”There is no going back on the decision to close Rufaro. It is now a national issue to spruce up our sporting and tourism facilities ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa,” said secretary for information and publicity George Charamba.
The 60 000-seat National Sports stadium will remain closed until next year, undergoing a major facelift. Plans for a new stadium have been mooted.
Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister, Francis Nhema, recently told the hospitality industry to toughen up.
”They [Fifa officials] are not interested in your problems — they are interested in the services that you can provide, period.
”It is either you prove your worth or they move to the next country. Don’t tell them we have this problem and the other. Tell them what you can do for them — that is what they want,” he said.