A ROW over land between Victoria Falls Town Council (VFTC) and a private company, Wild Horizons, is threatening to scuttle plans to construct a US$ 50 million hotel in the resort town.
This comes after the VFTC informed Wild Horizons that it was selling the land where it had been on a 25-year lease to an investor wishing to build a seven star hotel. The council has taken the option enshrined in the lease agreement by informing Wild Horizons to vacate the property.
Wild Horizons insists that as the sitting occupant of the land in question, the VFTC ought to give it the first right of refusal — a request which the town authorities say was not part of the terms of the lease agreement. Instead, the VFTC has offered Wild Horizons a piece of land next to the site that a hotel is to be constructed, which the company has refused to accept.
A full council meeting, which was deferred on February 3, is expected to deal decisively with the matter when it next convenes.
“Council received an application to construct a seven-star hotel estimated at around US$50, which would invariably employ more than 200 people, the majority of them being locals. “Council then notified the lease holders to vacate within 90 days as provided for in Section 18 of the lease agreement.
“Wild Horizons responded by rejecting the council’s position and they claimed that that move would cost 700 employees their jobs, but in our view, the jetty site does not employ more than 10 people,” the council’s Town Clerk, Ronnie Dube, told the Daily News yesterday.
“It is the council’s considered view that the new applicants would add value in the development trajectory in line with the National Development Strategy 1, which calls for employment creation. This will also imply that council will be able to charge rates, unlike the $7 000 lease rental being paid now. The relocation on its own would even create more employment with the beginning of construction which will benefit most businesses in Victoria Falls,” Dube said further.
Wild Horizons said it had hoped that the council would address the matter at its deferred full meeting where it had its representative attending.
“Having attended the full council meeting of today, it was disappointing to listen to the chair deferring the issue of stand 1392A from the agenda to a later date, reason being the matter must be discussed at committee level before it is presented back to full council.
“We would like to put on record that we believe this move has rendered your letter null and void, as we feel Wild Horizons was given notice “illegally” before all due processes were followed within council.
“We await advice from council on the next full council meeting where we will eagerly attend to defend our position,” wrote Wild Horizons corporate affairs and business development director, Barbra Murasiranwa-Hughes. All this comes as the resort town of Victoria Falls is going through a massive investment boon, largely driven by money-flush businesspeople.
To underline its growing status, Victoria Falls now houses the country’s first ever foreign currency only stock market, the VFEX — which has seen some of the big counters listing their stocks — after successfully exiting the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.