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National monuments collapsing

That, however, might just be wishful thinking on my part, if reports received so far are anything to go by.

 

It would seem the general uncaring attitude towards the environment and the apparent ignorance towards the actual value of preserving it goes deeper than just wanton littering and illegal dumping, water and air pollution, wetland abuse and forest destruction.

This lackadaisical attitude has reportedly spread its ruinous tentacles and has resulted in the near collapse of many national monuments, previously known as “ruins”, a term that was denounced because it depicted these historic sites to be in a “ruined state”. The sites have been renamed “monuments”.

According to reports, the “monuments” are presently in such a dilapidated and “ruinous” state and are in dire need of rehabilitation, if they are ever to be saved.

Some of the structures, like the Dhlo Dhlo monument which is located near the Midlands city of Gweru, date back to the 16th century. They tell the story of where indigenous Zimbabweans came from, which helps us know where we are and where we are going.

But unlike the Dhlo Dhlo monument, which is reported as having recently undergone re-construction, many sites of equal historical and cultural importance, are facing collapse and are in urgent need of correctional measures.

Take the ancient site at Jumbo Mine, found a few kilometres from Mazowe Dam, for instance.

These iron-age works pre-date the Portuguese occupation of the Highveld in Zimbabwe.

When the Portuguese settled at Dambarare (Jumbo Mine) in 1585, the structures were reported to have already been in existence.

Today however, the fence surrounding the monument has been vandalised and stolen, the National Monuments plinth destroyed, while illegal gold miners have since begun to dig  around the monument. Their operations in the area are reportedly ongoing even as we speak!

 

And so the story goes.

The Rimuka monument, which dates back to 1630, has had its walls dug out by illegal gold miners making it increasingly difficult to tell that it is a great historical site of great significance.

A friend from overseas, who visited the country recently and paid a visit to most heritage sites, as he does every year when he comes to Zimbabwe, had this to say of the Zinjanja Monument in Gweru: “It is seriously damaged, and I mean seriously. Walls have collapsed and now really just a pile of stones.”

In the same spirit of destruction, the cave with the rock paintings (Rock Art) in Mutoko is now reportedly being used as a football pitch by the villagers and the paintings are being erased by the soccer balls being kicked against them.

Stone site suffers neglect

A stone site found a few kilometres out of Mutoko on the road to the Nyamapanda border post was reportedly also suffering from neglect with the outer walls said to have begun to collapse from subsidence of the surrounding ground. The stones have fallen over the cliff and have been piling up below the main wall.

If this historical and cultural site is ever going to be saved from total collapse, the task would be to collect all the fallen stones and return them to their original place and employ skilled stone masons to reconstruct the walls.

Other sites that are reportedly also facing collapse, although at varying degrees, are the Luanze Monument, which used to be a Portuguese market place and port, located on the road to Nyamapanda, Makaha Monument (a site on top of a hill in the Makaha District), and the Tsindi Monument, found a few kilometres out of Marondera.

Since there are hundreds of such heritage sites all over the country, it would be logical to assume most are facing a similar fate.

Govt insists sites being preserved according to value

 

Senior curator of archaeology and monuments from the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, Godhi Bvocho, says the sites were being preserved in accordance with their value, determined by how much they are visited by tourists with those that get the most visits (Class 1 sites) getting the most inspection (three visits a year).

“Our role is not to rebuild monuments; we preserve them, to stop further deterioration from the state we found them in. When we took over their care, most of them were already in a bad state,” said Godhi.

“For those in my care, the only sites in danger as far as my understanding is concerned are Makanza and Luanze. Due to the degradation of the roads, our vehicles are failing to access the sites,” he added.

For further information, Godhi referred me to Kundishora Tungamira Chipunza, the chief curator, who however, could not be reached.

For feedback, contact me at cmasara@standard.co.zw

 

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