Mugabe's party opts for posh Victoria Falls... again


HARARE: If tourists love Victoria Falls, so apparently does president Robert Mugabe's ruling party.

Thousands of delegates from Zanu-PF were Thursday making the long hot journey to the resort town where Mugabe was due to officially open a key conference on Friday.

It was the second time Zanu-PF has held a major gathering in Victoria Falls this year after Mugabe's 91st party in February.

The town is an 11-hour drive (or nearly) from the Zimbabwean capital Harare over a road eyewitnesses said on Thursday was already "bleeding" in parts from the heat.

Buses from the state-owned ZUPCO company would reportedly ferry the delegates on their journey, though top officials - including Mugabe and his wife Grace - would arrive by air.

A new international terminal would be officially opened at the Victoria Falls airport this weekend.

Like Mugabe's birthday party, the conference would be held on the golf course of the plush Elephant Hills resort, a favourite with tourists and international conference organisers.

Delegates would be put up at hotels, lodges, schools and in private homes in the town. Landowners were reported to have hiked private rentals in anticipation of a business boom.

Mugabe's party fare caused a storm after revelations elephant was on the menu. This time organisers have carefully avoided saying what would be used to feed the expected 6 000 delegates, all of whom would be carefully screened before being admitted.

The falls themselves - known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or the smoke that thunders - is the largest singular waterfall in the world and twice as high as the Niagara Falls on the US-Canadian border. The Angel Falls in Venezuela is the world's tallest waterfall.

During Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis to 2010, foreign tourists typically opted to view the falls from the Zambian side. However, they were now returning to Zimbabwe where hawkers attempted to sell as souvenirs obsolete Zimbabwe dollar notes from the hyperinflation era.

A year ago, lions chased a herd of buffaloes into Victoria Falls town. They were later shepherded out by rangers.


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