The Ministry of Tourism has ordered 670 vehicles from an Indian company, just two days after the chief executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority complained that his organisation is underfunded.
In a statement Ashok Leyland said it had secured an order worth $50 million to be delivered in the 2014-15 financial year. Tourism minister Walter Mzembi confirmed the deal but declined to comment further. The deal is based on Zimbabwe receiving a 'line of credit' from India.
Nothing is known about what the vehicles are for or how the ministry will pay for them or even if the ministry had gone to tender.
On Wednesday, Karikoga Kaseke, the ZTA chief executive officer, complained that they had only received $50,000 from Treasury so far this year. He said the authority was allocated only $2.2 million by Treasury against the $35 million requested for its activities.
Our Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme said the ministry should have used part of the money to market the country's tourist destinations, rather than spend it all on vehicles.
'The Ministry is not that big to buy over 600 vehicles... one wonders what the vehicles are for, unless if they are earmarked for tourist companies around the country,' Saungweme said.
Tourism used to be the country's third biggest foreign currency earner, attracting nearly one and a half million visitors a year. But by December 2000 that number of visitors had fallen by 75%. This had a massive impact on the economy as thousands of people lost their jobs as companies closed down.
Last year Zimbabwe and Zambia co-hosted the UNWTO General Assembly which provided the two countries the rare opportunity to showcase their tourism products to the world. But the ZANU PF led government has made no effort to increase the country's tourism potential and in fact is proposing a VAT tax on foreign visitors which will depress the industry even more.