Victor Maphosa and Nesia Mhaka
Government will move in swiftly to protect the shrines of Mbuya Nehanda in Christon Bank overlooking the Mazowe Valley, which has been invaded by illegal miners, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe has said.
The Christon Bank community has also raised alarm over the Mazowe River, which is being contaminated by small-scale miners who use mercury and cyanide in the extraction of gold.
The community appealed to Government to consider making the valley and shrines tourist attractions.
According to the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, the Mazowe Valley is a cultural and historical landscape worthy of preservation as the sacred sanctuary of the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda, which led the African struggle against colonialism in two major wars, the First and Second Chimurenga.
Speaking during a tour of Mazowe Valley where Mbuya Nehanda’s shrine is located, Minister Kazembe yesterday said Government will not allow illegal miners to destroy such historical evidence.
“What we have witnessed here is shocking in any language and we cannot allow this to carry on,” he said.
“This area is where Mbuya Nehanda used to live and there is archaeological evidence to confirm that and there is even a cave she used.
“These are being destroyed by illegal miners and we cannot allow this to carry on. This is very useful for historical evidence.
“There is also environmental degradation that is taking place here and it is now dangerous for humans and our animals. All the soil that is coming from the degraded land is going towards Mazowe River and that will eventually affect Mazowe Dam. This must stop.”
Minister Kazembe said given that the new city centred around the new Parliament building in Mt Hampden was around the corner, there was need to curb all illegal activities in the area to keep water from Mazowe Dam clean.
“So, something has to be done urgently to stop whatever is going on here in the interest of our environment,” he said.
“We want also to sit down with the Ministry of Mines (and Mining Development) and work together and see how best we can solve this issue.”
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said the area could be turned into a tourist destination if it was protected from illegal miners.
“These illegal miners are doing more harm than good to the environment,” he said.
“They are wantonly cutting down trees and digging huge pits in search of gold and this has to stop.
“Mazowe Valley is one of the most vital tourism sites in the country, rich with vast natural resources ranging from dense forests, caves and rock paintings, among other features. These are important for domestic and international tourism.”
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi said illegal mining in the Mazowe Valley was now a cause for serious concern, requiring urgent intervention.
“This damage needs to be stopped,” he said.
“There is need for proper environmental management here.”
Christon Bank Environment and Tourism Association chairperson Mr Angus Wakeling appealed to the Government to seriously consider the community’s wish for the area to be an official tourism destination.
“The shrines and the scenic views are suitable for a tourism destination,” he said.
“As a community, we appeal to the Government to consider this area. A lot of people visit this area for various activities like mountain climbing.
“The country can benefit from these activities.”