The restoration of King Lobengula’s original palace, Old Bulawayo, which was gutted by a veldt fire last August continues to hang in the balance because of bureaucratic bungling between the late Ndebele king’s descendants, the Khumalo family and National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ).
Old Bulawayo was built by King Lobengula in 1870 and was burnt down in 1881 in protest against invasion of white colonialists.
One of the king’s indunas, Magwegwe Fuyane led the process of burning down the capital after which Lobengula and his people moved northwards to the present-day State House at Sauerstown, Bulawayo.
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.
However, the palace was again gutted by fire last year and has remained an eyesore as the Khumalos and NMMZ continue haggling over who should initiate the restoration process.
NMMZ director Godfrey Mahachi told NewsDay he once drove to Bulawayo for a stakeholders’ meeting, but was told “the meeting had been postponed because the stakeholders needed to consult amongst themselves before getting back to us”.
“It was our intention to restore Old Bulawayo soon after its destruction by fire,” said Mahachi.
“We are told that the Khumalo family members have to perform some traditional rites because the site is a cultural one and that has to be done before the restoration process is done. We are ready to come for the consultative meeting even if it was held tomorrow because our initial aim was to get the reconstruction work running by June. We have been given a go-ahead to do some other things by the stakeholders, but the sooner the consultative meeting is held the better.”
Mahachi refuted allegations by the Khumalos that NMMZ was stalling the programme.
One of King Lobengula’s descendants, Peter Zwide Khumalo, said: “We are still waiting for the local director (Western Region, Darlington Munyikwa). Mahachi was supposed to come for the meeting at one point, but could not make it.”