After a 4 year absence, I recently found myself at Munda Wanga Botanical and Zoological gardens. It is such a beautiful scenic place, full of extraordinary beauty and potential, but it seems we have thoroughly incompetent and inept people in charge of the place.
Everywhere I went, I saw endless money making opportunities and yet the number of people I met was very small and it was easy to tell that their revenue is very low. I was appalled at how poor and substandard the place is and how it has actually worsened since I was last there.
In the botanical gardens, the waterways (including ponds) are stagnant and filthy with not even one visible fish. I was thoroughly pissed off to see plastic bottles, papers, packets and all manner of trash in the stream but no one apparently gives a damn to clean it out. I was far more annoyed at the stupid people who throw trash in the stream without thinking about who will pick it up for them. And to make matters worse, you can walk for a long time before finding a bin.
The swimming pool below the water slide had dirty green water and was generating no income. There is another swimming pool nearby full of cracks that has seen better days maybe 30 years ago. The children’s playground had many broken or dilapidated structures in it. It doesn’t even have a lawn.
The toilets at the restaurant! Gosh they stink like hell and have no running water in them. Imagine taking your kids in there. And yet just about 100 meters away at the zoo, there is plenty of water being wasted with broken leaking pipes losing gazillions of litres of water the whole day. There was no barman to serve drinks and you had to go to the kitchen section to get someone to do it. Plus to round it all off, the sofas are torn, old and uncomfortable.
At the zoo, I could only see one ostrich, two warthogs, two bush-pigs, two lions, a few antelopes and some areas had nothing in them. Where I saw about 10 rabbits 4 years ago, I could only see one. I also saw one tortoise, down from the 5 I saw last time.
Even the monkeys are fewer and yet there are millions of them in Zambia. One of them was in a small cage and I wondered why it was put there instead of with the others in a larger cage. I only saw 3 wild dogs and there is an entire large section at one corner where there is nothing there but empty bush.
Most of the structures are old with cracks and the round ones where they keep the porcupines and other smaller animals are not child friendly as the walls are high and no steps are provided for children below ten years of age to climb up and see. They don’t even have a safety fence around and it is easy for a child to fall in.
As I walked away at the end of my small excursion, I wondered why it seems nobody in the entire government cares about Munda Wanga. If anybody anywhere was serious, surely they can turn the place into a serious money spinner. There is so much wasted land at Munda Wanga that can be used more effectively. The white man who created Munda Wanga in 1950 and handed it to the Zambian government in 1968 must be turning in his grave that his vision has been lost and denigrated.
There are so many things that can be done to turn that place around and make it a serious money spinner. For a start, they can immediately do a lease to a private company. They tried this before but supervision was poor and it was repossessed. How hard it is to do a 30 year lease with strict benchmarks and a business plan from the new lessees?
But even if it was kept in government hands, does this mean no one has thought of a simple thing like engaging consultants to do a full business plan to get a long term loan of something in the region of $10 million to convert Munda Wanga into a modern animal theme park? They don’t even have to pay the consultants anything upfront but can give them one to two percent of the financing. Who in Zambia would pass up the opportunity of getting a hundred thousand dollars if they write a successful business plan?
With a $10m injection and a contract with serious property developers, we can rebuild the entire place, bring in a huge variety of animals, have proper guided tours, build a modern heated indoor swimming pool, put indoor games like pool, squash, ping-pong, basketball, etc, set up a video games arcade, build a proper children’s playground, excavate an artificial lake in the middle of the stream and put in fish.
Munda Wanga can partner with many other organizations for value added services such as hiring fishing rods or training people how to catch fish. They can bring in Italian style gondolas complete with musicians for hire or even self-paddled traditional Zambian village canoes. Imagine how many tourists would want to experience paddling a genuine canoe from Luapula or Zambezi.
Drones can be hired by people at 30 minute intervals to shoot awesome pictures and video. There can be face painting, T-shirt printing, posters, calendars, key holders, a car wash, barber shop, hair salon, business center, free Wi-Fi, conference facilities, ice-cream and vending machines for anything from drinks to airtime.
Munda Wanga can periodically bring in traditional dance troupes, a live walking brass band, magicians, acrobats, musical artists and many other performance artists. They can have special events in the place like launching of business products and there can even be a crafts and curios section. And these are just a few of the many possible ideas.
With just a little bit of imagination (which is sorely lacking), Munda Wanga can easily make millions upon millions every year and can be the go to place in Lusaka, packed to full capacity every weekend. My question is, why hasn’t anyone come up with these ideas and if they have, why haven’t they been implemented? We are quite happy to spend $20 million on a new State House which will hardly increase government revenue but we can’t spend on Munda Wanga which can bring in millions.
Does it make sense for Munda Wanga to be a total mess after 67 years? I have hardly seen any real change since 30 years ago when I was a small boy playing in the place. Please let us be serious. Instead of giving the usual “government has no money” excuse, let us use our brains for once.