Zimbabwe must scrap Visa: Immigration Boss

Zimbabwe-visa-ZimborderguideGovernment has set up an inter-ministerial committee to spearhead the construction of two tourism border post with South Africa in a move set to improve regional tourism, the deputy minister of Home Affairs Obedingwa Mguni said yesterday.

He said Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko chairs the committee and that the sites have already been identified in Beitbridge. He said one port will be constructed at Chituripasi area some 156km east of Beitbridge town and the other at Shashe some 120km west of the current border post.

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Under the new order, Chituripasi border post will create a passage for those accessing the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier conservation area, which is made up of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Shashe port will cater for tourists visiting the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) on the west of Beitbridge town. The Mapungubwe TFCA is made up of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.

“An inter-ministerial committee was created this week. We will soon be visiting the proposed sites to ascertain the immediate needs and map the way forward.“The two countries have agreed on the two points. What is only left is for us to expedite the

construction processes,” he said. Zimbabwe and South Africa agreed on the proposed sites in 2006 but an acute shortage of resources has resulted in the processes moving at a snail’s pace. 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. So far South Africa and Botswana have opened Pont Drift tourism border for those accessing their components of the Greater Mapungubwe TFCA. Mozambique and South Africa also opened another tourism border at Giriyondo in December 2005.

Zimbabwe must gradually move away from issuing visas to tourists and focus more on maximising on revenues spent by visitors when they stay in the country, an official has said.While the government generates revenues from issuing visas, Department of Immigration principal director Clemence Masango said that should not be the main focus.“As a country, we need to move away from visas to the extent possible and also not amplify too much of the revenue that we get from visa fees,” Mr Masango said while giving an update on resumption of the Kaza univisa regime.“The real benefit that accrues to any economy from tourism is what tourists spend when they come here, not the $50 visa fees.”

The Kaza univisa is a project between Zimbabwe and Zambia which was launched as a trial in 2014 and was discontinued a year later. The visa, which grants tourists access to both Zambia and Zimbabwe, was relaunched last December.The ultimate vision is to include all the five countries that are part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, commonly known as Kaza, which include Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, if the trial run is successful.

In 2016, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) ranked Zimbabwe as one of the

top 30 countries in the world that made major efforts to reduce travel restrictions and allow free movement of tourists in the past seven years.

During the same year, the government scraped visa requirements for citizens of the Southern African Development Community while 37 countries including China, Turkey, Cuba, Algeria, Iran and others were moved from Category C to Category B.

The visa regime has three categories, namely A – in which citizens from selected countries are exempt from visa requirements, B – where citizens of the targeted countries apply for visas on arrival and C, where those falling in the group are required to apply for a visa while still in their home country.

Mr Masango said a boost in tourist arrivals through scrapping visas had a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy in terms of job creation among others.

“This is the kind of broad thinking that we need when we talk about tourism visas, facilitation of travel and access to a destination,” he said.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said scrapping visas or making facilitation easier would boost performance of the tourism sector.

“People plan holidays in a manner that takes them to two or three countries but the time for applying for a visa is also limited. If they get visa in one country that gives them access to other countries that are on that visa, it will be very much appreciated,” he said.

Zimbabwe targets to attract five million tourists annually by 2020, up from over one million and generating an income of $5 billion for the industry. — New Ziana.

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