Thursday, 18 October 2012

Zimbabwe outrage over plan to turn Robert Mugabe's home into tourist attraction

Zimbabwe outrage over plan to turn Robert Mugabe's home into tourist attraction

The government of Zimbabwe has sparked outrage by announcing controversial plans to turn Robert Mugabe's home into a tourist attraction, local media reported on Thursday.
The cash-strapped country's cabinet reportedly hopes to spend several million pounds renovating a string of properties once owned by the tyrant and other nationalist leaders.
Ministers are believed to have approved the controversial proposals this week under plans to boost tourism by doing more to promote the troubled state's history.
The New Zimbabwe website reported that Mugabe's former home in the capital Harare was one of a handful due to be renovated under the scheme.
The publication reported: "Ministers have approved plans to spruce-up the old homes of prominent pre-independence nationalists to promote township tourism.
"Finance Minister Tendai Biti is expected to allocate funds for the project – which could run into millions of dollars – in his 2013 budget due to be announced on November 15."
New Zimbabwe reported that Mugabe's former home in the Harare suburb of Highfield would be renovated under the scheme, alongside others previously owned by other veterans of the struggle against colonial rule including the late opposition leader Joshua Nkomo and the former head of Mugabe's ruling Zanu party Herbert Chitepo.
It is believed ministers want to turn the properties into museums as part of a project inspired by the renovation of homes in neighbouring South Africa previously inhabited by leading members of the country's struggle against apartheid.
The sprawling township of Soweto near Johannesburg has become a leading tourist attraction after houses lived in by the country's former president Nelson Mandela and other African National Congress veterans were successfully turned into museums.
New Zimbabwe reported that Zimbabwe's tourism minister Walter Mzembi believed the scheme could be successfully copied in Harare.
He said: "As part of the efforts to promote township tourism, we have proposed to raise the status of the houses which housed our early nationalist leaders into national heritage sites.
"We will be pushing the issue to be allocated funds in the 2013 national budget as these houses need to be enshrined for posterity.
"What has happened in South Africa's old suburb of Soweto is our benchmark and we would want to see Highfield become like that."
Zimbabwe's Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa said the renovated houses would be equipped with the latest in visual technology to provide engaging exhibits for visitors.
New Zimbabwe reported that the plans had been approved by ministers from both parties within Zimbabwe's coalition government.
The scheme has now apparently been listed for consideration by the country's finance minister Tendai Biti ahead of his budget next month.
But critics have questioned the wisdom of spending public funds renovating houses once owned by national leaders.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya told New Zimbabwe the scheme showed the government had skewed priorities when so many people remained out of work.
He said: "It's a clear lack of agenda and a case of misplaced priorities.
"How can they prioritise renovating those houses when the economy is bleeding with an unemployment rate of over 80 per cent, when universities have no ablution facilities?"
The reported plans to renovate Mugabe's former home comes 32 years after the ageing tyrant, 88, took power in Zimbabwe.
The one-time freedom fighter spent years fighting colonial rule and was elected the southern African state's first prime minister when the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.
He was initially vaunted by the West for his leadership of the country, which was once considered the bread basket of Africa.
However Mugabe was later widely criticised for unleashing a wave of terror against his political opponents and allowing thousands of white-owned farms to be seized by his supporters.
His rule saw the virtual collapse of the country's once-strong economy, causing record unemployment and forcing millions of his citizens to flee.
The tyrant has since clung to power despite a string of disputed elections.
He has ruled the country since February 2009 as part of a shaky coalition with the country's main opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change.
The two parties agreed to work together to draw up a fresh constitution for the country before returning to the polls.
However Mugabe, who turned 88 in February, has repeatedly indicated his desire to call new elections sooner.
It is now thought fresh parliamentary and presidential elections could take place next year.


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