CONFUSION reigns supreme over the reconstruction of the Old Bulawayo Cultural Village with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) and royal Khumalo family giving conflicting statements over the pending project.
Old Bulawayo was established by King Lobengula as his capital in 1870 after the death of his father King Mzilikazi in 1868. It was abandoned in 1881 due to colonial threats to his political power.
In 1990, NMMZ identified the site as a suitable educational and tourist centre and through consultations with the Khumalo family it was reconstructed in 1998 as a theme park. Structures such as a wagon shed, the outer palisade, King Lobengula’s palace, eight beehive huts and cattle kraal, as well as a nearby interpretive centre were constructed.
The historic site was, however, destroyed on 24 August 2010, by a fire that started five kilometres from the village.
Efforts to reconstruct it have, however, been stalled with the NMMZ saying it required $50 000 to complete the project.
The NMMZ has over the past years been saying they were facing challenges in the re-construction, citing funding problems. They have also claimed that their efforts to engage the Matabeleland community had hit a brick wall with no one responding to their SOS call.
In an interview with Sunday News recently, NMMZ executive director, Dr Godfrey Mahachi reiterated that while they wanted to reconstruct the project, funding was a problem with no one coming forward to assist the organisation.
“We have made it clear that we require $50 000 for us to reconstruct that village. We realised that we cannot rely on Government funding because they themselves are facing a liquidity crisis. While they can promise us that figure in the national budget this will only be based on the availability of these funds.
“This is the reason that we decided to take the route of trying to attract well-wishers to chip in and assist us reconstruct this village. We are mainly targeting the Matabeleland community and those people that have a direct interest in this village but unfortunately till now we have got nothing,” said Dr Mahachi.
The director said they could not even set a date by which they would have completed the project but it was their wish that it becomes functional as a matter of urgency.
“We want at least $10 000 for us to have somewhere to start on. We cannot use our $5 000 because we will do something that is not significant. So with $10 000 I believe we can build some structures that could encourage more donors to come aboard,” he said.
However, a representative of the Khumalo family, Prince Peter Zwide kaLanga Khumalo criticised the NMMZ for sidelining them and not being sincere about moves to reconstruct the site.
He revealed that as the cultural custodians of the village, they were not informed about the burning down of the village and further refuted claims that anyone from Government or the NMMZ had approached them to raise funds for its reconstruction.
“A lot of questions have to be answered with regards to that village. When it was initially reconstructed in the 90s Government approached us as a family to seek guidance and I was elected to be the go-between for family and Government.
“What we fail to understand is why that very Government has not come to us after the village was burnt down. They know that they have a case to answer. What they have to tell us is how a thatched village had no fire guards in place. Since 2010 they have been claiming that they are consulting people from the region but which people are they consulting because it is not us,” said the Prince.
He said if Government was serious about reconstructing the village, it was a simple case of calling an all-stakeholders conference to discuss the matter because $50 000 was not a figure that could take four years to raise.
“NMMZ must tell us who they have approached because I am very sure that they approached no one because if they had they would have come to the Khumalo family first like they did in the 90s. It is obvious that someone is not serious here,” said Prince Zwide kaLanga.