Bongani Ndlovu, columnist
TOURISTS have been denied access to the Zimbabwe Natural History Museum in Bulawayo after Zesa cut power to the facility three weeks ago for a debt of $ 700,000.
Museum director Dr Moira Fitzpatrick said debt has piled up over the course of a year and a half as they struggled to function due to lockdowns induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
âWe are a victim of Covid-19 and we have not had any income for a year and a half because of the pandemic and we had no tourism. We are now at the point where we can no longer afford our electricity bill of approximately $ 700,000, âsaid Dr. Fitzpatrick.
âPeople can come and see if they’re willing to pay, but they’re not. We have been largely closed for the past three weeks. The offices, the solar powered ones, are open, but much of everything else is closed.
Before the start of Covid-19, the museum received around 5,000-6,000 visitors per month, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it receives just over 1,000. Tourists pay US $ 10 each and locals pay the equivalent of $ 3 per adult and $ 1 per child for each visit.
Dr Fitzpatrick said they had made a request through their headquarters in Harare to the Home Office and Cultural Heritage Department for an intervention.
âWe depend on the Ministry of the Interior and Cultural Heritage and three weeks ago we asked the ministry to pay us or help us and we hope it will give us money. We are still waiting and hoping that they will intervene, âsaid Dr Fitzpatrick.
She said they have installed solar power for some sections of the museum and the institution needs US $ 30,000 to US $ 40,000 to complete the project.
âWe started the first phase, but we couldn’t continue because of Covid and the blockages. We had the money in reserve to put in solar, but we had to use it to stay afloat as an institution and now it’s exhausted. We would probably need 30,000 to 40,000 US dollars to complete the solar project, âsaid Dr Fitzpatrick.
âWe have some solar power and few of our galleries are lit and we cannot expect the tourist to pay the entrance fee while we are in the dark. At this point, we can no longer collect income to pay our bills like Zesa’s. “
The museum contains exhibits illustrating the history, mineral wealth and wildlife of Zimbabwe, including the second largest mounted elephant in the world. It is one of the five national museums in the country and the only natural history museum in Zimbabwe.
It is part of the Heritage Corridor trail that begins at Inxwala lot, the tree hanging a few meters from the Inxwala site, heading south on Joshua Mqabuko Street.
The trail continues to the iconic Joshua Mqabuko Statue in the middle of Joshua Mqabuko Street and 8th Avenue in the CBD, then to the Parish of St Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, which is at 9th Avenue and Lobengula Street. Part of the Heritage Corridor takes tourists to the Joshua Nkomo Memorial Museum along Aberdeen Road in Matsheumhlope, about 5 miles from the CBD. The final stop on the Heritage Corridor tour is the Natural History Museum at the corner of Park Road and Leopold Takawira. – @bonganinkunzi