Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
LONG queues of haulage trucks parked on either side of the road just after Masue Bridge is the first thing a visitor into Victoria Falls encounters.
The hearty welcome Victoria Falls is popular for could soon be overshadowed by the ugly sight of the haulage trucks if no immediate action is taken.
Motorists, including tour operators’ vehicles carrying clients, have to reduce speed when approaching the Victoria Falls Truck Stop turn-off as the road that stretches up to Mkhosana turn-off has literally become a narrow strip due to trucks parked on either side.
There are also scores of touts and hawkers making the place an accident zone and a health hazard. Sex workers roam freely at night.
Residents on the CBZ stands west of the Hwange-Victoria Falls Road have to endure the dust which has even become a permanent coat to the interior and exterior of homes.
The place is a hive of activity as hawkers sell water and soft drinks to truck drivers while others solicit for jobs such as doing laundry.
Evenings have their own tale as sex workers have found a hunting ground.
The truck stop which is run by Victoria Falls City Council in a partnership with some private investors, can accommodate between 80 and 100 trucks at any given time.
Many park outside and sometimes there are close to 100 trucks between Mkhosana turn-off and the steep slope towards Masue Bridge.
The city mayor, Councillor Somveli Dlamini, said efforts are being made to find alternative land for parking.
“Our truck stop is overwhelmed by the volume of trucks hence many park outside which is not lawful though. The council is trying to find alternative land, this was once discussed in council but there hasn’t been a resolution,” he said.
Cllr Dlamini could not say whether the city has by-laws to regulate parking of the trucks.
Questions sent to council management had not been responded to by the time of going to print.
The truck drivers will be waiting for clearance to cross the border to Zambia or Botswana.
Some spend up to a month waiting for their documents.
Each truck, whether inside the truck stop or outside, is charged US$15 park fees for the whole period the truck is parked.
Drivers make fire to prepare their meals on the road side, posing the danger of starting veld fires.
The stretch of the road was also a traditional wildlife corridor as animals trek to the gorges.
A long-distance truck driver, Mr Gift Kapamba from Zambia, said they are also affected by dust while parked in the area.
Victoria Falls Combined Residents Association chairperson Mr Kelvin Moyo said residents have complained about the presence of haulage trucks.
“We are equally worried about the issue as it is both a health hazard especially for residents who live on the windward side and accident zone. We have received complaints from residents on the CBZ stands and we feel this should be speedily attended to. The council should provide alternative land for all trucks or come up with by-laws that regulate the situation there,” said Mr Moyo.
“However, there is no justification for people to see this as a hunting ground for commercial sex which we have seen happening. Besides sexually transmitted diseases there is also a danger of the spread of Covid-19 and accidents.”
A similar scenario is found at the Victoria Falls border where trucks block the no-man’s land between the Victoria Falls Bridge and Zimbabwean border and the entrance into the Rainforest.
Tour operators have complained about the issue at various fora saying their clients sometimes have to duck the trucks when walking to the bridge or entering the Rainforest.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North chapter chairperson Mr Anald Musonza said while trucking business is a huge economic activity, it must be supported in a manner that allows other economic activities like tourism to survive.
“That issue needs urgent solution and trucks taken to designated parking sites. They have become a nuisance and blocking smooth movement of people in the city while also damaging roads. We are a tourism capital and the environment should be welcoming hence we need a more orderly parking process,” said Mr Musonza.
The presence of trucks negates the city’s drive towards a clean sustainable green tourism city.
Matabeleland North police spokesperson Inspector Glory Banda could not readily comment on the issue saying he had not been briefed on the situation on the ground.-@ncubeleon