Poachers overrun Khami Ruins

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
PLANS are on course to conserve and restore Khami Ruins, a World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Bulawayo, which is under threat from fish and firewood poachers as well as livestock.

Khami Ruins World Heritage Site is managed by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ), having been declared a national monument in 1937.

It was built between 1450 and 1650 and its structures resemble that of the Great Zimbabwe National Monument.

One of the many houses of stone in the country, it is proof that there was sophisticated architectural acumen in the country well before colonialism.

Despite it being a World Heritage Site that attracted international and local visitors amounting to 10 000 annually before the outbreak of Covid-19, the monument is threatened by cattle and people who invade the premises.

The site is situated within 108 hectares of land which previously had a perimeter fence.

However, the fence was stolen, resulting in animals straying into the area.
NMMZ said the area has also become unmarketable largely due to a poor road network leading to it.

Firewood poaching among other issues, emerged as the problem affecting the management of the site.

This emerged during a stakeholder meeting to craft the Khami Management Development Plan yesterday at Khami Ruins.

The plan is aimed at resolving the challenges that are being faced at the site and ensure that it is conserved for posterity.

Yesterday’s meeting was attended by various Government departments, Bulawayo City Council officials and players in the tourism industry.

During the meeting, it emerged that some  visitors get lost and end up at Khami Prison Complex as road signage is poor.

Khami Ruins World Heritage Site station manager Mr Todini Runganga said vandalism of the monument is a major challenge.

He said stakeholder buy-in is important if the monument is to retain its universal value.

“Some of the challenges that we have in the conservation of the place include the straying of cattle or domestic animals into the monument. They affect the stability of dry-stone walls. They also affect the structures which are fragile components of the site,” he said.

“We have a challenge of poachers; both wood and animal poachers. We used to have quite a variety of small mammals, kudus among other animals. But we have lost quite a lot of that to poachers who come from surrounding communities. There are also quite a number of people who sneak into the estate and fetch firewood. Some fetch firewood for resale in nearby suburbs while some get firewood for domestic use.”

Khami Management Development Plan Stakeholders tour the ruins after the meeting yesterday

Mr Runganga said the crafting and development of the new management plan for the World Heritage Site will play a major role as the monument can contribute to economic growth.

“This is a great opportunity for us to align the management needs of Khami World Heritage Site as a tourist product as we are also envisioning contributing to Vision 2030. The discussion around the new management plan for Khami is mostly around heritage conservation, marketing for tourism generation and revenue generation both for Government and local communities,” said Mr Runganga.

He said visitors dropped by almost 50 percent following the outbreak of Covid-19.

“Before Covid-19 we were recording 10 000 visitors a year, but the figures drastically reduced as we only recorded 4 700 last year and this was local traffic,” he said.

Heritage expert and National University of Science and Technology research fellow Dr Simon Makuvaza said during the discussions it emerged that challenges affecting Khami Ruins World Heritage Site were also affecting surrounding communities, hence collective actions are needed in addressing the problems.

He said to attend to the problems, there is a need to establish a Khami World Heritage Committee which will implement management plans.

“During our discussion, the road and signage issue came out prominently. The problem that seems to be there is that it is not quite clear on who should be responsible for the road that leads to Khami Ruins World Heritage Site from Bulawayo. Is it the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development’s roads department, BCC, or Umguza Rural District Council. So, during our next meeting next Wednesday, we are going to bring these stakeholders and get to discuss and know whose responsibility it is,” he said.

Dr Makuvaza said fixing the road will make it accessible and attractive for both foreign and domestic tourists.

“The site itself needs to be presentable so that it can be visited. Those issues will be addressed in our next meeting.

And we are going to put these issues into our management plan so that  we establish the Khami World Heritage Committee. The responsibility of that committee is to implement the recommendations,” said Dr Makuvaza.

“Around Bulawayo, Khami features very well as one of the attractions near the city apart from Matobo World Heritage Site and many other attractions in the city. Economically, we can promote this site and we can have local and international tourists coming to this site.”
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Article Source: The Chronicle

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