Home » Governance » The House Father Zimbabwe Lived in

HOUSE Number 4510 Old Highfield, in Harare, where the late Vice President Dr Joshua Nqabuko Nkomo first lived in when he came back from Zambia in 1980, is just like any other house in the suburb.

It is perhaps slightly more eerie, as it turns decrepit due to years of neglect.

What is more depressing is that nobody seems to talk about this iconic house, just like many other historical landmarks in Highfield, except President Mugabe’s house. Highfield was also home to such nationalists as Enos Nkala, Josiah Chinamano, George Nyandoro, Michael Mawema and George Silundika.

In fact, it was at Enos Nkala’s house that the nationalists, including Herbert Chitepo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Edgar Tekere, Leopold Takawira, Henry Hamadziripi and Mukudzei Mudzi gathered to form the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) party, as a breakaway from the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, in 1963.

Other important landmarks of the suburb include the Cyril Jennings Hall, which was a meeting place for nationalists and other community leaders.

Half a century later, the suburb is carrying a fading aura of its heyday, which has led to calls for the canonisation of many of its landmarks for the sake of posterity as well as tourism.

Where Joshua lived

The single story house at Number 4510, now houses many families as the current owner battles to make a living from letting out the house. The 11-roomed house has two sets of bathrooms and staff quarters.

Inside the house hangs a giant portrait of the late Dr Nkomo.

Additionally, a built-in cabinet and a wall mirror that were used by Umdala Wethu are also present in the main bedroom. An old phone connectorexchange is still mounted to the wall of a small pantry next to the main lounge that Dr Nkomo used to hold meetings with his visitors. The house initially belonged to the late Solomon Tawengwa and was sold to businessmen Toad Kanyere.

The Kanyeres agreed to lease the house to Dr Nkomo at Independence.

Dr Nkomo lived here until 1987.

Ambuya Anna Kanyere, widow to the late Toad, explained: “Dr Nkomo loved this house and continued to live here until around 1987. Yes we had bought the house from the late national hero Solomon Tawengwa, but my husband Toad Manyere agreed to lease it to Dr Nkomo at independence.

“When the late Vice President returned from Zambia just before independence it was discovered that he had nowhere to live so we agreed to lease this house to him. We had Dr Nkomo here, a few streets behind us was Josiah Chinamano and across that Nathan Shamuyarira (all national heroes),” she explained.

Not many of the present generation know of the rich history of the Highfield neighbourhood. Some old timers, though had a chance to interact with the late Father Zimbabwe and are imbued with fond memories of the historical epoch.

A resident, Morris Hatikundwe Murape is one such person.

“I remember vividly coming to see him with my mother, Ambuya Murape. By then I was very young,” he said.

“It was even before I joined the liberation struggle. We would sit in this room and talk to the big man whose status, however, failed to erode his love for the ordinary people.

“What has only changed is the furniture but I can still visualise the setting. We are losing that heritage and if we don’t make an effort to preserve it then we will remain with nothing. I think there is a deliberate effort to erase the origins of Zimbabwe and we need to be careful,” he said.

He urged Government to speed up the process of making museums out of these iconic landmarks to ensure that young people get the right revolutionary orientation on the founding of Zimbabwe.

He added: “These are the same houses that gave us the independence that we so much cherish. We welcomed the move to turn these houses into museums but that seems to have died a natural death.

“Instead, the Ministry of Tourism has decided to focus on the wrong end. Why these carnivals? What do children get from these people moving around naked in our streets? We have failed to collect, store and preserve our history through these houses.

“Our children have a lot to learn from interacting with persons like President Mugabe and other surviving nationalists. The only other way they can get knowledge of the origins and the manner in which nationalism grew in the township is when we turn these houses into museums,” Cde Murape said.

Legacy lost

Gogo Evelyn Shamuyarira, sister to the late national hero Dr Nathan Shamuyarira said the legacy of nationalists like Dr Nkomo was being lost every day.

“As more of his contemporaries die, Dr Nkomo’s legacy is being lost. Our youths should be given an opportunity to interact with people like President Mugabe, Dr Nkomo, Josiah Chinamano, George Nyandoro and other nationalists who championed resistance against white rule.

“Even the kind of opposition we have has lost direction. I stayed next door to Dr Nkomo before and after Independence and one thing I learned was that Father Zimbabwe was unequivocal on what he needed for the nation. He was always emphasising the importance of national unity.

“That is what is lacking in this day and age among the opposition. The legacies of these front runners in our nationalistic movements need to be preserved and patented for future generations,” she said.

Starting with homes of the well-known nationalists, Government hoped to take the township tourism concept to Zimbabweans. This will be modelled around the same concept in South Africa which has seen the house of the late former president and ANC leader Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg being a must see for visitors to that country.

House Number 8115, along Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto has become one of the most sought after places in South.

The Mandela house is managed by the Soweto Heritage Trust, a partnership project between the City of Johannesburg and Standard Bank Group, and the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation. The house, which is the first abode of the late ANC leader, tells the story of Mandela through pictures, visuals and furniture.

“Other house attractions in Soweto include the Apartheid Museum, which is filled with exhibits that include photographs and video footage, among other paraphernalia which were used during the fight against the oppressive white system.

This has failed in Zimbabwe and it is nearly two years after the historic launch of Township Tourism by Vice President Joice Mujuru in October 2012.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi says the concept had been beset by lack of funding and that the current economic challenges had only seen his ministry getting only five percent of its budget allocation.

“That is a brilliant idea that has not been funded. It is also imperative that people understand that they are part of the equation in honouring the legacy of these heroes,” he said.

“This should not be left to the State alone but the people must pick it and run with the idea. The families of these heroes should grab the opportunity that was presented with the launch of the concept to benefit from tourism.”

Minister Mzembi said there was need to outline the vision to the family members in order to unlock the business opportunity.

“Family members should leverage business opportunities out of the family magnate they have. They should spearhead the project.

“The state has many things to do and it is up to the members of the family trace their icon’s footprints,” he said.

But until that is done, the houses of the nationalist leaders and other important historical monuments like Number 4510 Old Highfield, will continue to go to waste.

Source : The Herald