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The missing link at Mapungubwe TFCA

The missing link at Mapungubwe TFCA
Participants during the Three Nations Wildrun

Participants during the Three Nations Wildrun

Thupeyo Muleya Features Writer
Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals have been increasing relatively over the last five years owing to a raft of measures and policies, the government has adopted. Among these include; the introduction and aggressive marketing of new products in the sector.

In short tourism has become one of the major economic drivers in many countries across the globe. An increase of 16 percent in tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe was recorded last year, with players in the industry predicting more good times to come, as visitors start to appreciate the country as a world of wonders.

The drive to promote economic development, regional integration and the growth of tourism has seen South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe establishing a three nation’s mega-park, the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA).

Tourism ministers from the three nations signed an agreement to give the nod to the setup of the park in June 2006. At that time, the park was named the Limpopo-Shashe Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (Shalimpoo) and changed to Greater Mapungubwe TFCA in September 2009 in line with changing dynamics in tourism industry.

The GMTFCA lies in the southern part of Zimbabwe at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, which also separates the country from its neighbours; South Africa and Botswana respectively.

Further, the trans-frontier park is part of regional efforts to increase the traffic of tourism to that part of Southern Africa by consolidating marketing, infrastructure development and investment promotion in the conservation areas.

It is in that spirit that the three governments agreed to hold annual tourism events, as another way to market the TFCA.

Some of the popular events held in this park include the Tour de Tuli cycling expedition and the Wild Run, among others.

South Africa’s area covers 53 percent of the GMTFCA with; Mapungubwe National Park (under South Africa national parks services), Venetia Limpopo Natura Reserve, Mapesu Game Reserve, Mogalakwena Game reserve and Vhembe Game Reserves.

On the other hand, Botswana offers 28 percent of the GMTFCA covering mainly the Northern Tuli Game reserve, while Zimbabwe covers 19 percent with Sentinel Ranch, Nottingham Estate, Tuli Circle, Maramani and Machuchuta Communal Lands and Nhwali Wildlife Management Areas.

Though it appears most tourists have fallen in love with the flora and fauna in Zimbabwe’s component, the country still lags behind in terms of products and infrastructure development in comparison to its two neighbours.

South Africa and Botswana have opened a tourism border; Pont Drift, while plans to establish one between South Africa and Zimbabwe near the Shashe area has remained a perennial mirage due to bureaucratic processes on both governments.

Part of the GMTFCA falls under the jurisdiction of Beitbridge Rural district council (BBRDC).

BBRDC chief executive officer, Mr Peter Moyo says the government needs to expedite the opening of a tourism border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. “To start with, Zimbabwe needs to repackage its tourism products to promote arrivals both of international and regional visitors,” he said. “We must look at boosting arrivals outside the two annual events, which are currently running. “It is very critical that we open a tourism point with South Africa. This will see us having more day trippers.

“From the interactions we have been having with tourists during the Tour de Tuli and the Wildrun, it is apparent that they have fallen in love with the scenery and wildlife in our area. “However, it will be painless for them to cross from the South African side of the GMTFCA, rather than driving for 200 km via Beitbridge Border Post to come to the same point on the Zimbabwean component.”

Mr Moyo said they were in the midst of registering Maramani Communal Lands Camp with the National Park as a tourism centre.

The tented camp is used by tourists who hold annual events in the mega-park. He added that the opening up of a tourism border would enhance the community’s economic activities, especially those involved in arts and craft.

According Mr Moyo they were exploring the idea of fencing the tented camp so that it retains its natural features. Maramani Ward (8) councillor, Mr Luka Ndou said: “The coming of the border post will accelerate infrastructure development. These include the upgrading of the road network, communication facilities and business centres.

“We also need to improve on the marketing of the Maramani Camp and introduce more products in our TFCA.”

South Africa’s marketing manager of national parks in the Department of Environmental Affairs, Mr Roland Vorwerk said the Zimbabwean component was rich in wildlife and history.

“The future of the Maramani Campsite is positive if we get a few things right. “Though we have been using temporary borders for annual event. It would be wise for Zimbabwe and South Africa to have a legal access point throughout the year. “This will also help us to plan other products where tourists can come on private visits and access all the GMTFCA components conveniently.”

He said the tourism border had the potential to develop community based tourism for people living within the mega-park. Mr Vorwek added that they were working introducing 4 by 4 drive tours as another attractive product in the area.

According to Ms Jacqui Goodwin, a veteran South African tour operator, the opening of a border, would improve accessibility for game drives and the construction of culture villages, which will see members of the communities getting a fair share of the proceeds in the GMTFCA. “This place has great potential of making revenue for both the community and the government. “It is of paramount importance that we have serious commitments and desire by South Africa and Zimbabwe to create an access point for tourist.

“We also need to see a situation, where a mini museum with artefacts of dinosaur fossil, other artefacts and accounts on historical settlements is built in this part of the world (Zimbabwe). “In the presence of a border post, we can work on introducing many products including guided walking tours and opening up of more tented camps with access to water and a good road network,” she said

Mr Johan van Nehert, a participant during the just ended Wild Run felt that improved marketing could help the Zimbabwe side of the TFCA. “There is a need to create designated areas on the Zimbabwe side with the necessary infrastructure to host international tourists throughout the year. Issues around marketing and publicity should also be scaled up,” he said.

A tourism border between South Africa and Zimbabwe has proved to be the missing link to the growth of tourism products in the trans-frontier park.

In essence the founding principles and ideals around the making GMTFCA a destination of choice in SADC has become perennially elusive other than becoming an endless talk show unless Zimbabwe puts its house in order.

An inter-ministerial committee which was recently set up to spearhead the construction of two tourism border posts with South Africa has a mammoth task taking the country to the Promised Land.

Indications are that one port will be constructed at Chituripasi area some 156 km east of Beitbridge town and the other at Shashe some 120 km west of the current border post.

Under the new order, Chituripasi border post will create a passage for those accessing the Greater Limpopo Trans-Frontier Conservation Area, which is made up of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The Shashe port will cater for tourists visiting the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA) on the west of Beitbridge town.

It is also understood that upon completion the two borders will help relieve the pressure at Beitbridge, which is the only inland port between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Mozambique and South Africa also opened another tourism at Giriyondo in December 2005.

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