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Political Uncertainty Derails UN Tourism Conference Preparations

Victoria Falls
Tourism officials are blaming President Robert Mugabe’s insistence that the country hold elections next year for the slow pace of development in Victoria Falls, which is scheduled to jointly host the United Nations Tourism Conference next year with Zambia’s Livingstone border town.

Government sources told VOA that donors are wary of the political uncertainties and the controversial economic empowerment policies in the country, so have not fulfilled commitments to build and refurbish the town’s infrastructure.

The Daily News quoted Douglas Mavhembu, acting director International Tourism saying they have appealed to Finance Minister Tendai Biti to unveil a $100 million fund to assist developers.

But Biti, who has struggled to balance the budget, said he is not aware of the latest request noting that he only talked to Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi during budget consultation meetings.

Victoria Falls mayor Nkosinathi Jiyane said the United Nations has sent a technical team to assess the situation.

Chief economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe said asking money from Biti at this time is a sign of desperation.
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Meanwhile, the Victoria Falls mayor said he has not been invited to the inaugural Zimbabwe Diamond Conference starting Monday which will be attended by almost 5,000 delegates, including diamond industry leaders from around the world.

Jiyane said the Ministry of Mines and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation have not even contacted him to say that they are hosting the conference in his backyard.

Jiyane said it is unfair that he is being left out of the conference.
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bbey Chikane, the Kimberley Certification Process monitor for Zimbabwe, will officially open the conference, which is expected to shed some light on diamond mining activities in the country.

Some non-governmental organizations have accused Zimbabwe of failing to account for diamond proceeds worth millions of dollars mined in Chiadzwa, Manicaland Province.