‘Roadblocks put off tourists’

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BULAWAYO – The Zimbabwe Republic Police has been challenged to reduce the number of roadblocks on the country’s highways because they are putting off tourists and have become a nuisance.

Matobo-based tourist attraction centre, Amagugu International Heritage Centre director Pathisa Nyathi expressed displeasure at the heavy presence of police checkpoints, particularly on the highway leading to his cultural centre.

“It does not help our tourism at all,” Nyathi said.

“Imagine, just getting to Matopos and you have gone through four roadblocks. Certainly, we are not militarily or in a security sense, a threatened State. We are not threatened by any other State. So, there is really no need for so many roadblocks. If anything, they have become a hindrance.”

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba said checkpoints were necessary on the highways to fight crime.

“The issue of roadblocks is not synonymous to Zimbabwe only, all countries deploy officers to roadblocks,” she told State television recently.

From Bulawayo to Amagugu, there is a 60 km distance but on a recent trip, a bus carrying delegates and tourists to the venue encountered four roadblocks, a development that even got the tourists wondering if there was some form of “Al-Qaeda” in Zimbabwe, he said.

Zimbabwe’s alluring holiday destinations are struggling to attract tourists these days, largely due to the rising number of ubiquitous security checkpoints on highways manned by armed police officers who often demand bribes from motorists.

Hotels and tour operators at Victoria Falls — the largest waterfall in the world, Zimbabwe’s main tourist

attraction, and once a major revenue earner — and at several nature reserves,  are among those suffering from the decline in the number of visitors as numerous “roadblocks” discourage tourists to undertake road travel.

“…last week we went to Plumtree doing one of our programmes and we went through seven roadblocks. The fact that we counted them means that we were concerned,” Nyathi said.

It’s about 100km from Bulawayo to Plumtree.

Nyathi questioned the logic behind such an astonishing number of roadblocks.

“So you will realise that somebody will be stopped at each and every roadblock, what does that mean? That’s not good enough. Why so many of them? We are not under a threat, we can only find out from them unless if it is a threat that is not known to some of us.”

The devastating impact of the roadblocks on tourism has become more apparent and Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs ministry, in collaboration with the Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry recently instituted training courses for traffic officers on “smiling” and treating tourists and other motorists with kindness.

Last month, the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism executive director Paul Matamisa also bemoaned the number of roadblocks which he said had a negative impact on the country’s tourism industry.

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