OLD Bulawayo is set to be completed in February next year as Government under the Second Republic steps up efforts to restore King Lobengula’s original capital, which is a key cultural heritage site for tourism and education.
Major civil works, which include the roofing of the King’s Palace are set to begin this week while one of the beehives and a wagon shed have been completed.
The King’s Palace, the beehives (iqhugwana) and cattle kraal are the major components of the iconic cultural heritage site. It is envisaged that once complete, the site will boost the city’s tourism industry.
Old Bulawayo, which was built by King Lobengula in 1870 and was burnt down in 1881 to counter invasion by white colonialists, is part of the Heritage Corridor recently launched by President Mnangagwa.
One of the King’s commanders, General Magwegwe Fuyana, led the process of burning down the capital after which the King and his subjects moved northwards to the present-day State House in Sauerstown suburb in Bulawayo.
There were efforts to restore Old Bulawayo in the 1990s, but nothing materialised.
King Lobengula was the last King of the Ndebele and his kingdom collapsed in 1894 after it was raided by white settlers, marking complete colonisation of present-day Zimbabwe.
National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) executive director Dr Godfrey Mahachi said within days, they will be thatching the King’s Palace and working on the remaining beehives.
“We have already put trusses at the King’s Palace and this week we should be thatching it. We are in the process of mobilising material so that we speed up the project, which should be completed by February next year,” he said.
“Once we are done with the roof of the palace, we will start working on the exhibition. Our intention is to put up 10 beehives and material is already onsite.”
Dr Mahachi said his team will be working throughout December into early next year to meet the target.
“We had set a target to finish the first phase under the 100-day cycles that come to an end in November. There is a lot of work going on at Old Bulawayo and the project will be finished in February,” he said.
The beehives are associated with the King and the royal family. Dr Mahachi said they are also working on revamping the museum exhibition centre, including Jesuit Mission, which is an integral part of Old Bulawayo.
The Jesuit Fathers reached old Bulawayo early in September, 1879, and were received by King Lobengula, eventually obtaining permission to stay in the country and establish a Mission.
The site is already connected to the national grid with running water being electrically pumped from a borehole.
One of the beehives has since been completed and fireguards have also been constructed.
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 the erection of the perimeter for the palisade, which demarcates the central part of Old Bulawayo from the periphery is near completion.
Government has completed the upgrading of the 7km stretch from Matopos Road leading to the site under the first phase of the programme.
The ministries of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage as well as Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry are spearheading the project.
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.
The palace was however gutted by fire in August 2010 and remained an eyesore as the Khumalos and NMMZ disagreed over who was to initiate the restoration process.