/ 23 January 2011

Zimbabwe resort targeted by Mugabe militants

Zimbabwe Resort Targeted By Mugabe Militants

Militants of President Robert Mugabe’s party have launched raids on boating clubs and tourism lodges on the shores of the Zimbabwe capital’s main fishing and leisure area, tourism operators said on Sunday.

A safari lodge about 30km west of Harare reopened on Sunday after being sealed off by more than 200 militants since Friday, said owner Gary Stafford. The seven-chalet Kuimba Shiri lodge is a popular getaway for locals, foreign visitors, diplomats and United Nations staff.

Stafford said the leaders of the militants took an inventory of the lodge’s belongings and “there was no violence or looting”. They told him they were taking stock and evaluating lakeside properties under Mugabe’s policy of empowerment that calls for 51% ownership of businesses by black Zimbabweans.

One visiting couple was holed up in his lodge for a day and “we weren’t allowed any guests”, Stafford said.

Boating clubs and a mobile home park were also visited by militants, some armed with sticks and chanting slogans of Mugabe’s party.

‘World of wonders’
Property owners said they called the tourism and environment ministries to seek their intervention.

The militants’ moves coincided with the launch on Friday of a new campaign by Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi who branded Zimbabwe as “the world of wonders”, during a convention in Spain.

Witnesses said militants occupied a mobile home at one campsite after saying it could stay open as long as no property or utensils were removed. The militants, who took nothing and bought their own food from a nearby shop, completed an inventory of items at the site and told workers they wanted impoverished nearby communities to have a share in the lake’s leisure assets.

They indicated more than 20 clubs and holiday facilities were being assessed on the shores of Lake Chivero, a dam 8km in length — bordered by a wildlife reserve — that serves as Harare’s main water supply reservoir.

After collapsing during a decade of political and economic turmoil, tourist visits have crept upward since 2009 when a coalition government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, abandoned the hyperinflationary local currency and adopted the US dollar as legal tender.

Tourists had been kept away from the famed Victoria Falls in north-western Zimbabwe and the country’s animal reserves because of recurring political violence and acute shortages of fuel and the most basic goods during the nation’s economic meltdown. Victoria Falls is seen as one of the world’s natural wonders.

The change to hard currency saw petrol stations and empty store shelves replenished — with foodstuffs and luxuries still being mainly imported from South Africa as once self-sufficient local industries battled to resume production.

The raids at Chivero follow similar incidents in the mountainous north-eastern trout fishing and hiking district of Nyanga. There, holiday cottages were searched by militants and visitors reported being forced to show identification documents by rag-tag groups not in official police or security service uniforms. In some areas, the militants also manned makeshift road blocks.

Calls for elections this year by Mugabe to end the shaky power sharing deal have heightened political tensions. – Sapa-AP