Harare – Does Selby Zuma know something nobody else does?
Because despite Zimbabwe’s growing economic crisis and the looming advent of bond notes, President Jacob Zuma’s son is thinking of opening a hotel in Victoria Falls, according to a state-controlled newspaper from the southern city of Bulawayo.
Bulawayo’s Chronicle daily reported that Zuma said that South Africa and Zimbabwe will always be there for each other “even when things are not looking well”.
“We are looking at a possible joint venture to construct a hotel in Victoria Falls with Solomon Matsa,” the owner of the newly-opened Golden Mile Hotel in Kwekwe, The Chronicle quoted Zuma as saying. His sister Gugulethu is married to Zimbabwe opposition politician Welshman Ncube’s son Wesley.
The businessman described Zimbabwe as a “safe and attractive destination for investment” – which is certainly how President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government wants it to be known.
It may not however be how all other investors see it.
Zimbabwe’s #ThisFlag protest pastor Evan Mawarire said on Twitter from the US this week that he’d told Nigerian billionaire Alick Dangote “that in Zimbabwe government ministers loot investors’ money”.
There was celebration – certainly from the authorities in Zimbabwe – late in 2015 when it was announced that investment projects by Dangote worth 1.2 billion had been licensed.
But so far there’s little sign of them taking off. There were claims his aides were denied Zimbabwean visas last month.
Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s top tourist resort, perched on the edge of one of the Seven Wonders of the World (and the border with Zambia).
It has several plush hotels: the Victoria Falls Hotel, Elephant Hills Hotel – which is where Mugabe held his party conference last year – and the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, to name just some.
Tourism in Zimbabwe was badly hit by the 2000-8 economic crisis. Although tourists continue to visit the Zimbabwe side of the Falls, many reportedly make only day-trips, preferring to sleep in Zambia or back in South Africa.
Zuma was reported as saying investment in Zimbabwe “will create employment.”
The reserve bank will next month introduce its own “bond notes”, supposedly as an incentive to exporters and to curb revenue leakages but almost certainly as a way of plugging cash shortages.
Over-printing of “bearer cheques” led to hyperinflation, shortages and the wiping-out of savings for tens of thousands during the last crisis in Zimbabwe.
The fear is that this will happen again. Already Zimbabweans are urging each other on social media to empty their bank accounts.