By Judith Sibanda
Environment and Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira says her ministry and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have agreed to give locals free entry at the Zambezi rain-forest on public holidays and continuous free entry to elders above 70 years of age.
Mupfumira revealed this on Friday in Victoria Falls while addressing tourism players following a request by stakeholders to allow local residents to view the rainforest for free once a year.
She revealed the recent hike in entry fees into the rain forest from $7 to $21 has been reversed.
“When l came as the minister of tourism, my first item was to address that issue. You will remember in September during the tourism month, we had a free day to say all residents from Victoria Falls free entry into the rain-forest,” she said
“I resisted increment in parks fees because the people I am looking at are the locals. I even threatened the parks director general (Fulton Mankwanya) that I will slice it further because their current fees are too high for the locals.
“We are currently doing an exercise to make sure that we take care of that. With parks, we have also agreed that on Independence and Heroes day for locals, we will make free entry and people at over 70 years will get in free.”
She said school children were also going to get special fee entry that parents could afford.
“They justified that they were following the current trend used by many to trade at 3, 5, but when l asked them that you want to increase by three but if l may ask, did you increase the salaries for your workers and the answer was no, that’s why l said they must first look at their cost structure.”
She said rain-forest price increase was going to drive local tourists to Zambia where it was cheaper and that was going to soil the country’s image.
The minister was part of the delegation that had come with Vice President Kembo Mohadi for a clean up campaign in the resort town.