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World Heritage Status Safe

Rainforest Cafe at Victoria Falls receives UNESCO stamp of approval

Gil Staden, eTN  Dec 30, 2010

(eTN) - The United Nations Education and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) has endorsed the Rainforest Cafe that was constructed at the entrance of the Victoria Falls rainforest, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr. Sylvester Maunganidze, has said. The development means that the World Heritage Status of the rainforest is not under threat from delisting.

Dr. Maunganidze said the endorsement of the restaurant follows a decision by UNESCO to send a secret mission into the country, which he said found nothing amiss at the facility.

The Rainforest Cafe has been closed for a month after the National Museums and Monuments (NMMZ) unilaterally took over control of the rainforest from the long-time managers, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (NPWMA). At the same time, park rangers were also booted out of office. The two government entities are fighting each other for control of the entrance at one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which rakes in about US$7,000 daily, and the restaurant was caught in the crossfire.

In an interview at the resort town of Victoria Falls, Dr. Maunganidze said UNESCO convened a meeting in Livingstone, Zambia, to discuss the conservation program at Victoria Falls among other issues. He stated: “UNESCO had picked from the media that there were some fights around the restaurant with NMMZ claiming that the facility should not be there as it was in violation of UNESCO protocol and that it was disturbing the skyline of the falls.

“So out of that meeting, UNESCO sent a secret mission on Monday to see the restaurant, and the mission later reported that there was nothing amiss, adding that it was not interfering with the WHS.

“UNESCO also had never complained about the restaurant as some elements in the local and international media were claiming. UNESCO even quoted a local non-governmental organization that was raising the dust, and one wonders on whose behalf they were raising dust. In fact, UNESCO concluded that the restaurant was adding value to the falls.”

He added that UNESCO and his ministry had no qualms over the operation of the restaurant noting that a directive by Vice President Nkomo for the status quo of the facility to remain should be followed.

“My ministry gave the operator, Shearwater Adventures, a licence to operate and would see to it that they re-open soon. I am taking the matter up to Vice President Nkomo who gave a directive last month for the status quo to remain at the rainforest,” he said. Trouble started when NMMZ tried to control the Victoria Falls rainforest by elbowing out long-time managers, NPWMA. NMMZ also forced the Rainforest Cafe to close.

However, the government took a position that the management of the rainforest reverts to the parks authority. The battle to control the rainforest has been raging behind closed doors for more than a decade.

The area was declared a national monument in 1932 and a national park in 1957 before UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 1989.

Rainforest Cafe at Victoria Falls receives UNESCO stamp of approval
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