Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has stepped up efforts in restoring King Lobengula’s original capital, Old Bulawayo, which was gutted by a veld fire 10 years ago, with the reconstruction of 10 beehives among other civil works expected to be completed within the next three months.
Old Bulawayo was built by King Lobengula in 1870 and was burnt down in 1881 in protest against invasion by white colonialists.
One of the king’s indunas, Magwegwe Fuyana led the process of burning down the capital after which Lobengula and his people moved northwards to the present-day State House at Sauerstown in Bulawayo.
The restoration of King Lobengula’s capital was mooted in 1993 in the run-up to Bulawayo’s centenary celebrations and work was completed in 1997 with the help of royal experts from KwaZulu Natal Province in South Africa.
King Lobengula was the last king of the Ndebele and his monarchy collapsed in 1894 after it was raided by white settlers marking complete colonisation of present day Zimbabwe.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu yesterday visited Old Bulawayo to assess progress on the ongoing works to revive the cultural heritage site.
He said Government is working on a roadmap to expedite the implementation of the projects at Old Bulawayo, which are at 80 percent.
“As Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, our interest is to promote Old Bulawayo as a tourist destination. In fact, it is one of our key cultural heritage sites, which we believe has huge potential, particularly seeing that it is not very far from Bulawayo, and it also tells a story about the history of the Ndebele nation,” he said.
“We believe when tourists visit any area, most of them want to understand the foundation of that particular society and therefore it is important for us as Government to ensure that Old Bulawayo, among many other heritage sites, is restored and promoted from a tourism and education perspective.”
Minister Ndlovu said the major works which are being carried out at Old Bulawayo include the rehabilitation of access roads, ablution facilities and improving water supply.
“Some of the requirements such as gum poles and thatching grass have already been pledged and those donations will be quantified in kind and hence at no specific costs to the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. We will then need a budget for certain issues like putting up a fire guard as you will recall that this place was destroyed by veld fire, budget to do with water supply, ablution facilities, the road rehabilitation,” he said.
“The road is in a bad state and is inaccessible. We will solicit funds from different institutions and mostly likely get something from Treasury.”
Minister Ndlovu said his ministry, which is working with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage has come up with timelines as part of efforts to speed up the work.
“We will be quite thorough in terms of implementation because many a time we meet and agree and it ends there. Each agency has a role to play, timelines to meet and they will be reporting to us on a fortnightly basis so that we stick to our timelines,” he said.
“What has been quite fundamental about today’s visit as inter-Governmental agencies together with the Khumalo family is that we have been able to come up with a clear roadmap which should see this place in about three months’ time coming back to life.”
Prince ZwidekaLanga Khumalo, a member of the Khumalo royal family, said they were grateful to the Government for working on restoring Old Bulawayo, a key cultural identity.
“As a family we are extremely excited about the fact that Government has decided that what we lost tragically to veld fire should be revived. Old Bulawayo is the centre and heart of the culture of the people of this region. It is a great step and if this programme succeeds, we expect this area to be developed into a tourism place,” he said.
Prince Khumalo said the family is working with Government and primarily focusing on the cultural and technical aspect.
“There are a lot of artefacts within this area that need careful handling, especially when it comes to excavating. The use of graders may not be required as far as this place is concerned because there are other sacred things underground that we need to protect,” he said.
“However, I have to make it clear that the restoration of Old Bulawayo has nothing to do with the revival of the Ndebele kingdom or demarcation of geographical boundaries in this country. This is purely a cultural site which should be revived for the good and benefit of the people in Matabeleland and Zimbabwe as a whole.”
Recently, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe held a consultative meeting with the Khumalo family elders in Bulawayo to map the way forward in addressing the issues around the resuscitation of Old Bulawayo and King Mzilikazi’s grave.
The meeting came weeks after President Mnangagwa announced that the Government is engaged in a programme of erecting statues of eminent liberation icons from the First and Second Chimurenga/Umvukela to immortalise their supreme sacrifices towards the liberation of Zimbabwe.
In his Heroes’ Day message last month, President Mnangagwa said in a move that should rekindle national identity, pride, dignity, and culture, the Government is also reviewing the list of national monuments to include battle sites, national and provincial Heroes’ Acres, Assembly Points as well as former detention and restriction centres. — @mashnets.