Omuthiya – There is no prospect of the resumption of operations at the state-owned Zambezi Waterfront Tourism Park (ZWTP) anytime soon – its doors will for the time being remain shut.
It has been over a year since the ZWTP closed its doors for business and the board is still finding it difficult to finalise the forensic audit of the entity to establish what led to its closure, although alleged maladministration and financial irregularities were cited as the reasons for its temporary closure.
The closure led to 44 job losses out of the 58 people that were initially employed on the project, that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to construct.
The main proposal of the park’s board at the moment to resolve the issue is to find a suitable public-private partnership (PPP) stakeholder.
According to the former acting chief executive officer, Jerome Mutumba, whose contract ended last year, the board had taken a resolution to keep the facility closed until it can venture into a PPP by attracting investors and stakeholders.
“The process might take longer than expected due to bureaucracy,” said Mutumba, who was quick to point out he could not say much, as he is no longer in charge of the ZWTP. “Get in touch with the chairperson. He will be in a better position to give you an in-depth update,” he advised.
Board chairperson Frans Kwala was adamant though that steady progress has been made, although he conceded that it is at a snail’s space due to the weight of bureaucracy.
He noted that it is not easy to restructure a government-owned entity as opposed to a private one, as there are procedures to be adhered to.
In his optimism he stressed that they had completed a mini-forensic investigation, covering a specified timeframe and have forwarded the findings to the Minister of Environment and Tourism for consideration and for the report to be presented to Cabinet when it next convenes.
Kwala refused to be drawn into saying whether anyone has yet been held accountable for the alleged financial irregularities and maladministration.
He said: “We will soon release a media statement informing the nation as to how far we’ve gone in this matter, as it is part of our mandate to inform the public, but for now… just wait for the press release.”
“The report was submitted in November last year and will be tabled in Cabinet by the minister, maybe during the first meeting. Therefore, we cannot move faster than we should, because we have to wait for the instruction to go ahead, but I can confirm that there is progress,” Kwala explained.
Asked whether the board will consider hiring another acting CEO, Kwala said it is an internal issue, “which will need an internal arrangement made. Only if we see there is a need, then we can hire one.”
Government pumped N$200 million into the development of the ZWTP during the first phase, which included site clearing, bulk earthworks, engineering infrastructure, an administration building, 15 bungalows and camping site, conference facilities and walkways on a piece of land measuring approximately 22 hectares.
A further N$40 million was pumped in to cover operational expenses over a two-year period.