Five Star hotel may threaten Zanzibar's Heritage Site status Fish traders at Nungwi beach in Zanzibar. The government will probe some top officials with dubious investment certificates. Photo/FILE By MIKE MANDE The government of Zanzibar is planning to investigate high-ranking officials over the award of a contract to redevelop a popular cultural site into a five star hotel. The controversy, which affects a former Cabinet minister and several leaders, risks hurting the country's tourism sector. Mambo Msiige, an old cultural building, is to be redeveloped by Kempinski at Stone Town. But the Unesco World Heritage Centre has warned that this could see one of the most popular tourist attractions, the Zanzibar Islands, struck off the prestigious list of World Heritage sites. Abdilahi Jihad Hassan, Minister for Information, Culture, Tourism and Sports in Zanzibar's Revolutionary Government, said in an interview that the government is launching an extensive inquiry into some officials who have issued investment certificates without the government's knowledge. He added that the government will soon form a task force to probe the controversy. "The government is supposed to be informed on any major rehabilitation project, but we have not had any information. What I know is that the investor may have got the go ahead from higher authorities," he said without giving details on the officials to be investigated. A decision on the Heritage Site will be made later this month during the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) general conference. A team of experts from Unesco is expected in the country this week to assess the situation and consult the government. If de-listed, Zanzibar would become the third site to suffer such a fate since the creation of the World Heritage Sites list in 1972. Opposition to the development is high from environmentalists and conservationists on this Indian Ocean archipelago, with critics asking Unesco experts to review the situation. Among the sites removed from the Unesco list is Germany's Dresden Elbe Valley, in June 2009, owing to construction of a four-lane bridge at the heart of the cultural landscape. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, home to the rare antelope, was the first to be dropped from the list in 2007 after the Government reduced the sanctuary's land by at least 90 per cent for a hotel investment. Some officials say the loss will damage both Stone Town's reputation and its tourism revenues. Critics say the proposed hotel will ruin the city's unique low-rise skyline and dwarf its neo-classical architecture, which includes 500 different workmanship reflected in brass-studded, carved, wooden doors, and a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys. The hotel is to be built at the Forodhani seafront. The Zanzibari lobby said it was not consulted prior to plans to release Starehe Club - an open space - and Mambo-Msiige building to the investor. However, Issa Makarani, director general of the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority, said they were fully involved in the planning of the hotel, adding that the architecture heeds conservation regulations. The East African: *- News*|Five Star hotel may threaten Zanzibar 17th January 11 Z'bar govt in public property lease scam The Guardian Reporter Zanzibar government has contravened laid down procedures in leasing out two of its Forodhani Beach buildings and a garden to a hotel group for 99 years, it has been confirmed. Government sources told The Guardian the hotel group, Kempinski signed an agreement with the Isles government in October last year and paid $1.5m, equivalent to 2.1bn/-, an amount said to be a throw-away price for the prime area. Efforts to speak to the hotel management proved futile. However, sources said the hotel is planning to construct a five star hotel at the site. The leased area is categorized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) which should be preserved. A source close to UNESCO has told this paper that senior officials from the organisation's headquarters were expected in Zanzibar later this month to assess whether the construction of the hotel will affect the heritage site. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of State, President's Office responsible for Finance, Planning and Economy, Khamis Mussa confirmed the development saying the agreement will see the hotel group owning the site up to the year 3011. He said his ministry had already directed all government departments operating from the building to seek alternative accommodation. "Its true that the area around Forodhani beach has been leased to Kempinski hotel for a period of 99 years and all government departments who were accommodated in the building are supposed to move," he said. Government departments whose offices were at the place are Zanzibar Social Club, Government Registrar General, Office of Registrar General for Births and Trusteeship and Zanzibar Industrial Court. According to Zanzibar Workers' Union Secretary Khamis Mwinyi Mohamed the removal of the industrial court from the place has affected the hearing of all cases. It has, however, been learnt that construction of the hotel would not start soon as Zanzibar Conservation Authority was yet to approve the plan by the hotel chain. Chief Conservation Officer Issa Malani told The Guardian that the hotel had submitted two different plans and his department had not approved them. Reports are that the Aga Khan Development Network, (AKDN) had already reached final stages of negotiations with the government to develop Forodhani area by building gardens and the first phase started last year. Under the agreement the buildings were to be rehabilitated without destroying the architecture and left to be used by a local hotel owned by Aga Khan. Under the agreement Aga Khan would have built a five-storey building for the government use which would have cost $4m, equivalent to about 5.6bn/- . The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Isles Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Abdulghani Msoma admitted that negotiations between Aga Khan and the government had reached final stages for the expansion of Serena Inn Hotel. "I do not understand for sure how this plan was cancelled --- we had gone far in the negotiations with the Aga Khan," he said. Zanzibar has of late reported increase in selling of government buildings, especially in Mji Mkongwe area as well as land grabbing. Already, the seventh phase government has cancelled 26 title deeds of land given controversially to people in high circles. THE GUARDIAN: Z'bar govt in public property lease scam MY TAKE I don't support the construction of a hotel within the stonetown that will threaten the status of Stonetown as a World Heritage site. However as it seems there is something hidden about the news by the Nationmedia! Guess what the interests of the Serena Hotels were not mentioned in their story signifying the Nation media is playing double standard! The least they could do would be to state their conflict of interest as everyone knows the Serena Hotels, the Nationmedia and the AKDN are under the umbrella of His Highness Prince Aga Khan! As I usually say, the Nation Media has issue to sort out when it comes to Ethical Journalism!