Zim moots plan to make Grace Mugabe orphanage a tourism attraction - report

2016-09-28 20:01
Grace Mugabe. (File: AP)

Grace Mugabe. (File: AP)

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Harare - Planning a trip to Zimbabwe? Tourists may soon be able to visit an orphanage and school run by First Lady Grace Mugabe because officials believe it paints a "good picture" of the country, according to a press report.

The wife of longtime president Robert Mugabe, 92, set up her state-of-the-art orphanage and school (charges are high for fee-paying pupils) on a former white-run farm in Mazowe district, north of Harare. 

The orphanage, which houses more than 80 children, regularly features on the itinerary of trips by visiting first ladies. Chinese teachers are seconded by their government to teach primary - and even pre-school - pupils Mandarin at the attached school, which was funded by a $7 million US grant from China according to aiddata.org.

Now the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief Karikoga Kaseke wants to award the state-of-the-art facility "tourism destination status", the pro-ruling party Patriot newspaper reports in its latest edition. 

"This is what Zimbabwe is about," Kaseke reportedly said after a visit to the orphanage and school. “Visitors have seen Zimbabwe ‘burning’, but this is not true."

Fund-raising exercise 

Roadblocks, high prices and rising social unrest have not helped Zimbabwe attract foreign tourists in recent months. While some self-drivers report being waved through road checkpoints, others report being harassed by officers keen to extract fines for small offences (like carrying a fire extinguisher in your boot rather than in the front of your car, or not having your fire extinguisher recently serviced). 

As Mugabe's government struggles to raise cash, many suspect that police are on a fund-raising exercise.

An attractive destination for backpackers and bungee-jumping thrill-seekers in the 1990s, Zimbabwe now charges tourists in US dollars, making it an expensive destination for rand-earners. There have been efforts to explore other types of tourism apart from the high-end safari model. 

Religious tourism is one option, with Zimbabwe's mega-prophets (Emmanuel Makandiwa, Uebert Angel and Walter Magaya are the best-known) able to pull huge crowds.

But turning Grace Mugabe's orphanage - which has been built near to her dairy - into a tourist attraction is not without controversy.

Commented @SimbaNembaware when the proposal was first mooted: "So Ministry of Tourism is planning to make Grace Mugabe's orphanage a tourist destination. Come to #Zimbabwe, see our orphans!" 

Another Twitter user @tidzo said: "Many tourist destinations in Zim are being under utilised, but Grace's orphanage qualifies for ministry attention??"

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  grace mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  tourism  |  southern africa

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