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Kariba tension-gripped as government departments dither tactlessly

Admire Ndambakuwa who is surviving through gardening in Mahombekombe.

Kariba is a tense town this week for both tourists and local stakeholders, with emotions boiling over in some instances. Government departments' inept handling of important issues is at the core of the tension.

On 6th July 2020, the Municipality of Kariba issued a public statement for the "Removal of Gardens established in water ways, streams and steep slopes". This came with the ominous and officious "immediate effect" clause.

Concerned with the immediacy of the notice which threatened their ripening crops, residents in Mahombekombe and Nyamhunga, the targeted suburbs, approached their Mayor and Councillors for representation. The economically hard-pressed residents are not disputing the law informing the public notice and the Environmental Management Agency's position, but they are requesting for a deferred implementation so that they can harvest what is in the gardens and be barred from planting again. Their request is understandably not a legal one but morally very sound, as no responsible government would be expected to slash down food crops amidst a biting food shortage, exposing citizens to malnutrition, hunger, disease and death, all in the name of environmental management. Residents further noted that this is in the middle of a health pandemic which requires the increased uptake of green, leafy vegetables which are not easily accessible in Kariba. Further still, Mahombekombe residents fear that the implementation, like most things these days, might be indiscriminate and heartless.

The Mayor for Kariba, Mr George Masendu, responding to stakeholder concerns in a public forum, said the matter is "beyond our control" and yet the suburbs mentioned in the notice come under his stewardship.

The EMA Area Manager for Kariba, Mr Charles Satiya, who was invited on the same public forum as the Mayor and Councillors, failed to answer if there would be irreparable harm to the environment if people are allowed to harvest their crop and then discontinue the foul practice.

Stakeholders spoken to say they are aware of the law being implemented but claim they have been pushed into the habit by the perilous state of the economy. The majority of urban dwellers in Kariba cannot afford electricity, adequate food and utility bills, forcing them to resort to adopt unsavoury survival tactics.

Residents also allege a political undercurrent, saying they are being provoked into turning against the government by joining the proposed July 31st national demonstrations, compromising their health further amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They view politicians in both ZANU PF and the various MDC formations with suspicion.

As if the gardens and firewood issues were not disturbing enough, ZimParks and the Inland Waters Authority (Ministry of Transport) are embroiled in an ugly kindergarten spat which is also costly to the town.

ZimParks opened up all their parks nationally to business on the 7th July 2020. They made a public announcement in the media to that effect. Lake Kariba, which was declared a recreational park years ago, is therefore open, according to ZimParks. Tourists this weekend were shocked to be returned back to harbours after complying with all formalities, including paying Lake Entry Fees (Conservation Fees). The Inland Waters Authority poured cold water on the "false" opening of the lake. They have put out a notice advising that "houseboats are not permitted to operate until there is a Statutory Instrument (SI) to permit operations of houseboats."

Further information obtained from a source who visited the Lake Navigation/Inland Waters Authority offices in Kariba on Friday is to effect that even local Kariba residents cannot go on houseboats. Only speedboats may go out.

One would have expected government departments which work hand in glove to have shared this information and agreed on a uniform position.

There are people on houseboats at the time of going to print who have been advised by ZimParks to wait for clarity. Frustration, anger and suspense are written all over their faces. Those in the hospitality sector are also anxious to return to business, as costs continue to hit their businesses.

This confusion is not without precedent. The fishing sector suffered the same fate, with fishing rigs being called back to harbour after they had resumed operations. As in this new case, the conflict was between ZimParks and the Inland Waters Authority. It appears, they have not learnt much on how to handle important governance issues.

With no gainful jobs at the moment, Kariba residents feel government departments are failing them.

It remains to be seen how government departments will address these awkward scenarios which are hurting stakeholders.

Source - Laiton Kandawire Patsaka-Nyaminyami Community Radio Environment and Tourism Correspondent

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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