The Falls in Freefall

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The towering spray of Victoria Falls rises a thousand feet in the sky over the Zambezi plain

In Victoria Falls most people voted for Morgan Tsvangirai, hoping that he would bring change and a return to better times. But this town of about 50,000 people, Zimbabwe's trademark tourist mecca, is a sad example of the country's plight under Robert Mugabe. To survive, Mugabe defies the world; to survive, Victoria Falls needs the world. As long as Mugabe remains in power, Victoria Falls will remain in economic limbo.

In August 1999 Mugabe officially opened The Kingdom Hotel at the Falls. Built at a cost of $26.3 million, it was the largest tourism investment in the country since independence in 1980. Cleverly modelled on buildings of historic central African empires, the Kingdom's décor is superb, most of it consisting of natural woods, thatch and stone. At the entrance stands a sculpture of 4-m-high African warriors, spears and shields raised. Water features cascade throughout the hotel grounds; kingfishers skim across the artificial lakes; mongooses scurry among the syringa, acacia, flame lily and bougainvilleas, while monkeys and baboons chatter in the baobab and giant fig trees. With luxury air-conditioned rooms, glitzy shops, four restaurants, three bars and a casino, it is a tourist's paradise.

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