Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has released $15 million towards completion of works in the restoration of King Lobengula’s original capital, Old Bulawayo, which was gutted by fire 11 years ago.
King Lobengula was the last Ndebele monarch whose kingdom collapsed in 1894 after it was raided by white settlers, marking complete colonisation of present-day Zimbabwe.
The historical site, which was built by King Lobengula in 1870 and burnt down in 1881 to counter invasion by white colonialists, is part of the Heritage Corridor recently launched by President Mnangagwa.
Old Bulawayo is an important cultural heritage site for tourism and education.
One of the King’s commanders, General Magwegwe Fuyana led the process of burning down the capital after which the King and his people moved northwards to the present-day State House in Sauerstown suburb in Bulawayo. There were efforts to restore it in the 1990s.
Once complete, it is envisaged that the Old Bulawayo site will boost the city’s tourism industry.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the site on Tuesday, it observed that one of the beehive huts had been completed.
The cattle kraal, which is also an integral part of the settlement, is in the process of being fully reconstructed and a lot of ground has been covered. The wagon shed has already been thatched. Work on erection of the perimeter for the palisade, which demarcates the central part of Old Bulawayo from the periphery is nearing completion.
Roofing material for the King’s Palace has been sourced and is at the site while fireguards have also been constructed.
The Government has already completed the upgrading of the 7km stretch from Matopos Road to the site.
The Ministries of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, and Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry are spearheading the project.
National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) executive director Dr Godfrey Mahachi said work on the reconstruction of Old Bulawayo is set to resume soon with completion set for a couple of months following the availing of funds by the Treasury.
“Treasury has availed $15 million for the completion of the restoration of Old Bulawayo and anytime from now work will resume work on the site. What has been stopping us was the fact that the budget for the project had not yet been released,” he said.
“Preparations have been done in terms of the work that we do behind the scenes. We are just waiting for money to purchase the material for thatching of the King’s Palace, which we think should be commencing any moment as well as putting an exhibition there.”
Dr Mahachi said they will also be working on redoing the museum exhibition at the interpretative centre.
“We will be doing consultations with stakeholders so that the story we mount is revived and broadened in terms of the areas that it will cover. The issues of exhibitions are issues that we have been seized with all along as we waited for funding to actually do the practical work,” he said.
NMMZ is targeting construction of an additional nine beehive huts, which were central to King Lobhengula’s existence at the site. The structures are associated with the King and royal family
“The money that has been availed will ensure that we complete the project within two months as per our plan. Government allocated us enough money and all that we have to do now is to implement the project,” he said.
“We will also renew the information panels, including the material culture which is part of the thatch of the interpretative centre. We also intend doing something on the Jesuit Mission because it is also very integral to Old Bulawayo.”
Dr Mahachi said they want the role of Jesuits to come out clearly within the story of Old Bulawayo.
He said at the moment they are mobilising information around how the Jesuits interacted with King Lobengula and how their presence contributed to the demise of Old Bulawayo.
The site is already connected to the national grid with running water being electrically pumped from a borehole.
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.
However, the palace was gutted by fire in August 2010 and has remained an eyesore as the Khumalos and NMMZ disagreed over who should initiate the restoration process.
Article Source: The Chronicle