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By Matabeleland North Correspondent
VICTORIA FALLS residents have challenged their municipality to think outside the box and start income generating projects as opposed to relying on billing ratepayers.
The local authority solely depends on revenue from the tourism industry through payment of rates.
However, with Covid-19 biting deeply into the economy which has seen hotels and tour operators closing, the council has no other source of income.
Speaking during a 2021 budget consultation meeting on Thursday, some residents said they were overburdened by the municipality rates yet when they were also suffering from the effects of Covid-19.
A majority of residents in Victoria Falls lost their jobs after hotels and operators closed following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Residents said it was time the local authority came up with other ways of generating revenue.
The municipality a few years ago leased out beerhalls and also partnered with private players on the Rest Camp, Caravan Park and Truck Stop projects.
Residents said the leases on the projects amounted to nothing as the leasees were given long leases whose value has been eroded by inflation.
“Take back the Rest Camp, Caravan Park, Truck Stop and beer halls. These are capital projects that can generate money for the council and relieve pressure on residents,” said a resident.
Another resident said city fathers should push for a slice of the tourism cake.
“We have several lodges and hotels as well as the Rainforest but the council is not benefiting from any of these. As a result, we as residents are carrying the burden of running this town. If you were serious as a council you should be getting something from these facilities,” said a resident.
Residents have over the years complained that the council officials disregarded their views at the budget meetings which they said are only a smokescreen.
“For many years, we contribute at the budget meetings but the outcome is always against us. Our views are not considered. Right now we are paying exorbitant water bills and our meters are not working yet we complain about this every year.
“You have to take our views seriously than just to come here and make us ratify what you have already agreed on. We are lagging behind as Victoria Falls in terms of development and still have no tourism training school despite the town being the country’s tourism capital,” lamented a resident.
Town treasurer Nevile Ndlovu said a council was like a company which depended on residents.
He said Covid-19 has seriously affected council’s revenues with the $354 budget for 2020 already eroded by inflation.