The Zimbabwe Visa Business Programme

8 02 2016
On the road to cheaper climes

On the road to cheaper climes

My German friends love southern Africa. They spend up to 9 months a year in the region traveling around in their large, well-equipped, overland vehicle. This time they only spent 2 weeks with me. Florian is a handy man and helped install the solar panels and power system while he was here.

Last Monday they borrowed a smaller vehicle from me and went into town to extend their tourist visa. They took the opportunity to inquire about visa costs and conditions.

A single entry visa is US$30 extendable for 6 months but only in 30 day periods. The first 2 periods of 30 days are covered by the initial fee thereafter it costs $20 per 30 days. Each renewal starts on the day it’s renewed i.e. one cannot renew in advance and it has to be done in person. After 6 months one has to spend at least 6 months outside the country. There are not, apparently, any concessions for pensioners.

For the road bound tourist there are more costs. A “carbon tax” and road fees are $30 for 2 months (depending on the size of the vehicle), all the usual insurance costs, a border-crossing fee of $10 and then a road tax of $10 per 100km.

Lots of countries have these sort of restrictions on tourist visas; apparently to discourage illegal employment. In Zimbabwe this ironic – we have 90% of the population lacking formal employment and a government that is broke by any definition and yet we are discouraging tourists from staying to spend their money!

Permanent residence costs a $100,000 investment and a local partner has to be involved. In the past the local partner had to hold at least 51% of the shares (seriously!) but this was not mentioned by the government official involved. Maybe she didn’t know if this was still the case (it seems to change on a monthly basis depending on which government official is being quoted) or maybe she was too embarrassed to say.

A pensioner visa exists for South Africa; $50 for 4 years! South Africa is also a lot cheaper in Zimbabwe at the moment. It’s not entirely due to their weak currency but also due to it being just, well, cheaper! So Ute and Florian and their little dog Tiga left this morning for an extended South African tour.

The local press is replete with reports of the drought and how local Zimbabweans are suffering. In masterstroke of irony, last week I received a request from the local branch of ZANU-PF (the ruling party) soliciting funds for Robert Mugabe’s birthday party later this month. That he should be having a massive birthday bash in the middle of a drought, that he has declared a national emergency, has not escaped the local press. Yes, suggestions have been made that the funds for the bash go to those who’d just like one square meal a day. Whether this comes to pass remains to be seen. It’s the first time I’ve had this request but in the past urban businesses have been squeezed – heavily.

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