Zimbabwe is facing criticism for planning to build a multi-million dollar theme park in Victoria Falls, with the plans being dismissed as 'inappropriate' and 'bizarre'.
ZANU PF's Walter Mzembi, who was the Tourism Minister in the last government and whose future role is yet to be determined, announced the plans for 'Disneyland in Africa' this week. He was speaking on the sidelines of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly taking place in Victoria Falls.
Mzembi said the theme park development, planned to be built across 1,200 hectares of land, would house shopping malls, banking and exhibition facilities, and other entertainment services such as casinos. He said the estimated cost stands at about $300 million.
"We need a bit of development. In the distant environs we must see ultra-modernity emerging which can attract the youthful market into this destination. Current visitors are very elderly couples as the youth are a bit bored," Mzembi was quoted as saying by the state media.
Political analyst Clifford Mashiri called the plans "bizarre," telling SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the country has more pressing issues that should be addressed. This includes providing countrywide access to basic amenities like water and electricity, which remain out of reach for most of the population.
"People have no basic requirements in the cities and the rural areas. For some reason Mugabe wants to divert attention from these issues and try to appear like he has made a 21st century country by having a theme park. It's rather crazy, it's not wise and it's not necessary and it's just to divert attention," Mashiri said.
At the same time, tourism experts have said the plans are inappropriate. The UK Telegraph newspaper quoted Chris McIntyre of Expert Africa, a specialist tour operator, as saying: "People go to Zimbabwe because it actually offers something that is authentically African."
"They are not going to want to go there for a Mickey Mouse experience. It would be completely inappropriate," McIntyre reportedly said.
Lisa Grainger, an Africa travel specialist was also quoted by the Telegraphy as calling the plans "crazy".
"It would be like building a casino beside the pyramids. The reason people visit the falls is because it's unspoilt and natural; it's a glorious part of the Earth. Not because they want to buy candy-floss and be immersed in an American-style theme park," Grainger told the newspaper.
In the meantime, the state media has been at pains to justify why ZANU PF individuals are illegally representing themselves as government ministers at the UNWTO conference.
There is still no functioning government in Zimbabwe, with plans to swear in a new Cabinet and a new house of MPs being put on hold.
This means all the officials at the conference are technically misrepresenting themselves, including the former Tourism Minister Mzembi.
The ZANU PF mouthpiece newspaper the Herald has since sought legal justification of this, quoting experts who said that: "Technically, his term has expired, but practically there is need for continuity without any break."