Visiting Zimbabwe: What travellers need to know amid tense political climate

Cape Town - Zimbabweans, together with the rest of the world are waiting with baited breath to see what the out is, a tense political climate unfolds in the country. 

People watch a man bungee jumping in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, on April 1, 2011. The waterfall is Zimbabwe’s biggest tourist attraction.

News24 reports that President Robert Mugabe, 93 and his family are under house arrest. This follows a move by the military on Tuesday afternoon, 14 November, which saw the army take control of the streets of Harare. While no state of emergency or any violent unrest has been reported, advisories recommend  avoiding the capital’s CBD area. Follow News24’s live updates here for a timeline of events and in-depth coverage and analysis as the political situation unfolds.

Here’s what travellers to the country need to know:

Air Travel Access 

Entry into Harare’s recently renamed Robert Gabriel Mugabe airport remains fluid as are operations within the airport. On Wednesday, 15 November the army began to monitor access to the airport. Despite varying reports on social media that the airport had been shut down and staff had been ordered to go home – flights departed and arrived on time.

On Thursday morning, 16 November, fastjet spokesperson Hein Kaiser confirmed that all operation for the airline were normal. Similarly, South African Airways has confirmed that all of its Zimbabwean flights to and from South Africa are on track.

But is it safe?

The United Kingdom has issued a travel advisory saying, “Due to the uncertain political situation in Harare, including reports of unusual military activity, we recommend British nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer.”

According to two establish travel and tourism operators in the country, the situation is calm and peaceful in the major tourist areas – including Vic Falls.

On Wednesday, 15 November Africa Albida Tourism confirmed tourist hot spot Victoria Falls has not been affected by current political situation in Zimbabwe. The company, which owns Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Club and Suites, released a statement allaying concerns over the political unrest that has gripped the country and its effect on tourism operations in the region.

“We can confirm that it is currently business as usual in Victoria Falls,” says Ross Kennedy, CEO of AAT.

African Bush Camps Team issued a statement saying that the “Zimbabwe Military has assured all Zimbabweans that this is not a “coup” and as such has declared its respect for the constitution of Zimbabwe and that of the SADC charter of zero tolerance for the removal of a constitutionally elected Government”.

“There has been no report of violence and there is no civil unrest, and despite numerous rumours all airports remain opened and it’s business as usual in resort areas of Zimbabwe and including Victoria Falls.”

“All our Zimbabwe camps remain fully operational, except Zambezi Expeditions in Mana Pools, which we have had to close as of 14th November 2017, due to early rains and a violent storm which has flooded most airfields nearby and rendered the roads unserviceable.”

African Bush Camps said these guests would be accommodated in alternative camps.

“We are monitoring the Zimbabwe Political situation closely and we are hopeful that the current status will be resolved quickly and without an effect on people travelling to Zimbabwe or its residents. We would like to assure all our trade partners that the safety of our guests is a major priority and we will continue to advise should the situation deteriorate or become of grave concern. We have teams of meet and greet service staff at all the incoming airports and borders to support and re-assure our visitors as part of our service.”

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