Independence heritage pregnant with lessons
Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
SOUTH Africa has made rich pickings from the lives and trails left by apartheid heroes, from the likes of Walter Sisulu to Steve Biko, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.
Its tourism sector has fed off the popularity of these decorated faces who stood against apartheid.
In the West, the United States has benefited immensely from presidential homes that include James Monroe’s Ash Lawn Highland, Thomas Jefferson’s estate of Monticello and James Madison’s Montpellier, just to name a few.
Surprisingly, Zimbabwe had a more illustrious fight against minority rule yet its heroes have not been turned into brands whose exploits can be monetised.
Globally, tourism is taking a new dimension where communities are benefiting from the rich stories they harbour. Community-based Tourism (CBT), is an emerging phenomenon where communities manage and benefit from their unique way of life as well as history.
Sites most people take for granted because they are stationed in their community could be the key to economic turnaround and employment creation.
Over the past two years, the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency ran pilot projects to ascertain the feasibility of CBTs in Zimbabwe. Four projects were earmarked to understand opportunities and threats likely to be faced by communities when they venture into CBTs.
Stakeholders in the hospitality and tourism industry convened in Harare recently to assess the success of the test projects. Secretary for Tourism and Hospitality Industry Florence Nhekairo said the pilot projects have performed well.
“During the development of our project with JICA, four pilot sites were identified as pilot projects. These are Tengenenge Arts and Craft Centre, The Bulawayo Township Tour, Chesvingo Cultural Village and Gairezi Ecotourism Project,” Nhekairo said.
She said the idea was to gather information enough to help communities make better decisions when they pursue CBTs.
“As you know our ministry and JICA is working on producing a manual for the development of sustainable projects for developing Community Based Tourism enterprises,” she added.
Tengenenge Arts and Craft Centre is in Guruve, Chesvingo Cultural Village is located in Masvingo close to the Great Zimbabwe Monuments.
In Nyanga there is the Gairezi Ecotourism site which also served as a pilot project.
However, the standout project was the Bulawayo Township Tour, which unlike all the other three sites focused more on life experiences than natural landmarks.
In Bulawayo, a new initiative known as Township tours was set up, where people come and learn about the town at a cost.
Amakhosi Tours who are in charge of the Bulawayo Township Tours say that it brings an opportunity to connect people with their heritage and history.
“CBTs are the transfer of the human ecological system from one people to the other. The trails we leave in our day to day lives can be fascinating to other people who do not live within that reality,” said Gordon Chimombe the Amakhosi Public Relations Manager.
He said that CBTs may come in handy in walking the younger generations through the country’s liberation history and how we got independence.
“We have houses that former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo used to stay in Khumalo and Pelandaba as part of the visiting places. They are becoming popular among the visitors,” Chimombe said.
These houses if properly marketed, could become to Zimbabwe what Vilakazi Street in Soweto is to South Africa or what Ash Lawn Highland is in Virginia, US.
Vilikazi Street is where revered heroes Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu grew up.
Chimombe added: “In my journey as a tour guide, there are things that do not mean much to a person if they are told through word of mouth. Sometimes one has to feel and walk through the corridors that our heroes walked to appreciate their history.
“Communities should benefit from being close to places and sites where leaders in our fight for independence spent their time.
“If a site of historical significance is in an area, it will bring both local and international tourists. This means that those who have things they sell can benefit from the traffic,” he said.
These sites, if they grow in capacity, would need more staff to cope, resulting in the opening of employment opportunities.
Now that the idea is showing signs of positivity in Bulawayo, the same blueprint could be used to spread the consciousness of our local independence and heritage.
Zimbabwe has a rich history earned from its transition from a colony into an independent country.
This history because of its significance to the people can be packaged for tourism much to the benefit of the country’s citizens in terms of knowledge and financial opportunity.
Suburbs like Highfield in Harare are home to the sites in which some of the most historic strides towards the attainment of independence were made.
It was in Highfield where the Zimbabwe African National Union was formed at Enos Nkala`s house in 1963.
Sadly, the people staying in Highfield have not yet reaped the potential benefits expected of people living in an area with such significance in the liberation fight.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is impressed by the way Zimbabwe is warming up to the CBT tourism model.
“I am excited by the enthusiasm shown by the four teams from the four pilot sites that have give presentation. I am impressed by how dynamic and enthusiastic they are,” UNWTO Acting Programme Manager Vanessa Satur said.
She also made mention to the importance of context in coming up with CBT projects.
“What is very important is that people should not randomly select and say this is going to be a CBT project. Future CBT projects should be market driven,” she added.
She explained that the findings from the test runs should pave way for more projects so as to justify resources spent in research.
This outlines the opportunity for places like the Chief Tangwena’s area where President Mugabe and the late Edgar Tekere crossed into Mozambique.
Such places of national relevance should be fortified and preserved to benefit the people in the area.
There are also the Devedzo Mountains in Rusape where battles were fought in the second Chimurenga; these are sanctuaries relevant to this country’s liberation which should be benefiting the people of Rusape, taking into consideration how the same people were tormented during war times and some were forced off their land.
Communities that lost their friends and families in war should get opportunities from the places that harbour painful memories for them.
Zimbabweans suffered the unfortunate claws of colonial cruelty and it is through CBT that they may start to reap positive rewards from their painful past.
Heroes like Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Joshua Nkomo dedicated their lives to the liberation of this country.
It is only right that the reminders of their existence and the artefacts they used to get through life are kept safe and be used in community based tourism.
Thirty-seven years after independence, the gains of independence need to go beyond the natural resources and their beneficiation.
Rich stories are worth gold if properly packaged.