8 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Govt to Buy Highfield Properties

GOVERNMENT will soon open discussions with several families in Harare's Highfield suburb occupying houses previously owned by national heroes.

The government wants to purchase the properties and turn them into national museums, an official said in Harare recently.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke (pictured), told reporters that under a new concept of township tourism, government planned to take over the houses, improve them and turn them into tourist attractions.

Highfield has several houses that were once owned by nationalists, including President Robert Mugabe and the late vice president Joshua Nkomo.

The ZTA launched the township tourism concept during the Sang-anai/Hlanganani travel expo a few weeks ago.

Participants had the chance to visit some of the historical properties.

Kaseke did not reveal how many properties were targeted for acquisition but said many nationalists' houses were in the area.

He said the concept of township tourism had received encouraging response from the tourism sector, with some operators already packaging Highfield among their destinations.

This week, some foreign tourists were expected to tour Highfield.

"We want to ensure that the President's house is turned into a national shrine," Kaseke told reporters at a press conference called to review the travel expo.

"And what will happen to the families that are living there? We will give them another house. We are going to buy them another house. We wanted to do something on the houses before tourists start visiting but there has been a quick response by the industry, next week, some of you will be called for the first tour of the township by tourists," he said.

Kaseke said the ZTA was following a concept adopted in South Africa.

"The house of Nelson Mandela and the house of Desmond Tutu in Soweto are now national museums. In Soweto, the houses are in the same street, unlike in Highfields," he said.

He added that several such houses will also be taken over by government but did not say if the ZTA had already contacted the families.

Kaseke did not disclose figures but similar purchases in the region had ended up with government paying huge amounts to affected families.

A Mozambican family has demanded US$5 million from the South African government, which has expressed an interest at a historical property linked to the African National Congress in that country.

Last week, reports said the South African government was unwilling to pay the US$5 million and negotiations were ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) said at least US$100 million was required to refurbish the country's hotels.

"We would estimate that we need about US$100 million to spruce up hotels," said HAZ president, Tich Hwingwiri.

He said the high interest rates prevailing on the market of up to 18 percent had prevented some hoteliers from borrowing funds to improve the facilities. -

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