Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Big Five Historical Sites

There are five significant places in Zimbabwe that have helped shape this nation. They are the Big-five significant historical places. These five places have contributed to the shaping of pre-colonial, post, and modern Zimbabwe. Some may not have been recognised, yet others over emphasised, nonetheless, mentioning them helps the reader generate a fresh perspective of their significance in Zimbabwe, and hence call them the Big-five Historical places of Zimbabwe, alongside the Victoria Falls and the Nyanga mountains.

GREAT ZIMBABWE: Beginning of the Kingdom, Empire, and People
The largest ancient stone construction south of the Sahara, Great Zimbabwe was built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries by the ancestors of the Shona, one of Zimbabwe's many Bantu-speaking groups. The ruins cover nearly 1,800 acres and can be divided into three distinct architectural groupings known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex, and the Great Enclosure. At its apogee in the late fourteenth century, Great Zimbabwe may have had as many as 18,000 inhabitants.

It was one of some 300 known stone enclosure sites on the Zimbabwe Plateau. In Bantu, “Zimbabwe” means "sacred house" or "ritual seat of a king." An important trading centre and capital of the medieval Zimbabwe state, the city controlled much of interior southeast Africa for nearly two centuries.

History records that the last Empire collapsed, with the majority of people moving up north in search of Salt, amongst other things. After the decline of Great Zimbabwe, which had begun in the 13th century, the fragmented Shona tribes allied themselves and created the Rozvi state and encompassed over half of present day Zimbabwe. This state lasted until 1834 when it was invaded by Ndebele warriors and came under the rule of Lobengula.

MATOPOS: Rhodes, Lobengula, and Zimbabwe
The Matopos area contains some of the most majestic granite scenery in the world, and has great cultural and religious significance. The Matopos Hills comprise an extraordinary collection of huge bare granite hills with gravity-defying boulders scattered all over the countryside to create a quite unique and rather mysterious landscape. The most spectacular areas are within the Matopos National Park. The local Matabele people call it Malindidzimu (the place of ancestor spirits). The national park is famous for its outstanding views, San (bushman) painted caves, wildlife (especially the Black Eagle) and as the chosen burial place of Cecil Rhodes who named it his favourite spot.

Annually, on the 4th of November Bulawayo remembers the flag raising ceremony by the British South Africa Company, as this represents the official founding of Bulawayo as a town. But by one of those coincidences in which history rejoices, on that same day the City also commemorates the death and funeral of Mzilikazi, the founder of the Matabele nation. This is wholly fitting, since Bulawayo is a city belonging to Africans and to Europeans alike, and its history cannot be divorced from that of the province of Matabeleland. Mzilikazi led the Matabele nation to the high veld around Bulawayo in 1840, and he ruled it until his death in late September of 1868. After prolonged ritual ceremonies his interment began on 2 November 1868 at Entumbane in the Matopo Hills and was concluded two days later, exactly twenty-five years before Jameson's frontiersmen nailed their flag to a tree.

This is historically significant, and Zimbabwe has never been the same ever since then.

SALISBURY: Birth of the Nation of Zimbabwe
Pioneer Column, a military volunteer force of settlers organised by Cecil Rhodes, founded the city in 1890 as a fort. They originally named the city Fort Salisbury after the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, then British prime minister, and it subsequently became known simply as Salisbury. It was declared to be a municipality in 1897 and it became a city in 1935. Salisbury was the capital of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1953 to 1963. After that point, it was the capital of Southern Rhodesia.

The government of Ian Smith declared Rhodesia independent of Great Britain on November 11, 1965, and proclaimed the Republic of Rhodesia in 1970. Subsequently, the nation became the short-lived state of Zimbabwe Rhodesia; it was not until April 18, 1980, that the country was internationally recognized as independent and renamed the Republic of Zimbabwe. The capital city retained the name Salisbury until 1982.

The name of the city was changed to Harare on April 18, 1982, the second anniversary of Zimbabwean independence, taking its name from the Shona chieftain Neharawa. It is also said the name derived from the European corruption of "Haarari" ("He does not sleep"), the epithet of the chief whose citadel was located in the area known today as the Kopje (pronounced "Koppie"). It was said that no enemy could ever launch a sneak attack on him. Prior to independence, "Harare" was the name of the Black residential area now known as Mbare.

This is how the centre of the modern nation of Zimbabwe was born.

KARIBA DAM: Powering the Nation of Zimbabwe
The double curvature concrete arch dam was constructed between 1955 and 1959 by Impresit of Italy at a cost of $135,000,000 for the first stage with only the Kariba South power cavern. Final construction and the addition of the Kariba North Power cavern by Mitchell Construction was not completed until 1977 due to largely political problems for a total cost of $480,000,000. Some 86 men lost their lives during construction.

The Kariba supplies 1320 MW of electricity to parts of both Zambia (the Copperbelt) and Zimbabwe and generates 6400 GW·h (23 PJ) per annum. Lake Kariba, the reservoir created by the dam, extends for 280 km with a storage capacity of 180 km³.

Since its construction, Zimbabwe has never been the same before, as it has shaped economics, and social life of the inland country.

BEIT BRIDGE: Border Post or Bridge of Life
The bridge is named after Alfred Beit, founder of the De Beers diamond mining company and business associate of Cecil Rhodes. He was also a director of a number of companies, among them the British South Africa Company and Rhodesia Railways. The bridge was constructed in 1929 at a cost of $220 000 and financed jointly between the Beit Railways Trust and the South African Railways. A new bridge was constructed in 1995. The 24th November 1995 marked the official opening of the new Beit Bridge. It was built by the Zimbabwean Government, which now benefits from the tolls levied on crossings. The new bridge can accommodate much greater trans-border traffic than the old one could, which is now for rail traffic only.

The bridge was originally a crossing point for the pioneer column, but has given birth to a town called Beitbridge. Beitbridge is a border post town between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and has become the busiest border in Southern Africa, as it gives Zimbabweans, Congolese, and other neighbours, access to South Africa. Since inception this town has generated traffic of goods that has fed millions of people in Zimbabwe, and continues to do so by the day.
This is why Beitbridge is a historical place, worthy of recognition as BIG-FIVE.

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