BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
CHIREDZI communities have applauded the construction of Shangani-style campsites at Gonarezhou National Park, saying the move will go a long way in preserving their culture.
Gonarezhou Conservation Trust recently constructed three cultural campsites at Masasanya, Makonde and Mathuli, the park’s community liaison officer, Elias Livombo, has revealed.
“We are trying to revive the lost pride of the Shangani tradition as well as keeping the culture alive just like what they do in other areas around the country. Our chalets are built mostly using natural resources just like Shangani huts. We are not using cement except on special places like bathing rooms and verandas where we have stone work,” Livombo said.
“The designs on the walls and the floors are being done by women from the local community, while the structures are built by men with just pole and dagga. We are trying to include the locals as much as we can so that they have a sense of ownership unlike in previous years when the park and the community lived as rivals.
“We have established groups called ‘Mpfuka’ meaning ‘journey’ in Shangani because we saying the park and the community have now embarked on a journey to preserve our nature as well as our culture. In so doing we will be building a sound relationship with our community.”
Livombo said they had engaged hundreds of locals on a permanent and part-time basis, adding that they had established a vocational centre in Makonde where courses, including tourism and hospitality, would be taught.
Chief Tshovani applauded the move, saying it would preserve their culture.
“I am happy that now we can now be proud of some of the structures in the park which depict our culture. In other areas like Binga, Masvingo, Kariba and others they have managed to preserve their culture wherever there are establishments like this,” he said.
Villager Isaac Chauke said he initially wanted the park to be gazetted as a farming area, but was now happy the community was benefitting from the park.
“To me this used to be a waste of arable land as well as grazing land because I didn’t see any benefits from the park, but now I appreciate the current developments,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gonarezhou has donated over 100 000 library books to 39 schools around the park, including a truck that was specially designed to take local schoolchildren around the park on free tours regularly.