African Sun Limited, Victoria Falls council in impasse
VICTORIA FALLS — Negotiations between African Sun Limited (ASL) and council have failed to resolve the impasse between the two institutions over outstanding rates and water bills.
The country’s largest hotel group owes the municipality close to US$400 000 in unpaid rates and water charges.
ASL has since been dragged to court in a desperate bid by the municipality to recover its dues.
It has now emerged that ASL dispatched a delegation to negotiate a discount which was turned down.
Executives at the hotel group are particularly not happy with a 500 percent rate increase effected by council recently.
ASL managing director, Edwin Shangwa, led the delegation.
The hospitality giant operates three hotels in the resort town namely Elephant Hills Resort, Kingdom at Victoria Falls and Victoria Falls Hotel.
Council minutes obtained by the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets show that before the rate increase Victoria Falls Hotel, Elephant Hills Resort and The Kingdom had been paying US$1 454 18, US$1424 94 and US$1 271 13 per month respectively.
Following the huge jump in rates, their monthly bills shot up to US$9 620 22; US$9426 73 and US$8409 31 per month respectively.
In terms of ASL’s proposal, they would be comfortable with paying US$7 800; US$7 500 and US$5 500 for each of the three hotels.
All in all, ASL was offering to pay US$20 800 per month but its proposal was shot down by council which is hoping to generate US$27 451,26 per month from the three leisure outfits, up from US$4 150,25 before the controversial hikes.
The minutes indicated that the local authority resolved that ASL would not be treated in any special way because their case was not unique.
“It was noted that if council adopted the above proposed rates African Sun would settle the bill but council management said the tariffs couldn’t be reduced or amended after the budget had been gazetted,” reads part of the minutes.
ASL is the country’s largest hotel chain with over 10 hotels across Zimbabwe.
After the matter spilled into the courts, government investigated the dispute but its findings are yet to be made public.
The municipality has since last year clashed with most businesses, including those in the tourism industry, for boycotting paying rates.
Victoria Falls, one of southern Africa’s premier destinations, is dominated by leisure industry players, such as hotels and tour operators.
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