US’s restoration of Nalatale ruins bears fruits

The original free-standing walls of Nalatale ruins, dating back to the 14th Century, have been restored by workers from the national museums and monuments in collaboration with the local community.

Deputy Tourism minister Walter Kanhanga – I didn’t even know we had this site.
Deputy Tourism minister Walter Kanhanga – I didn’t even know we had this site.

Located 80 Kilometres from Gweru along the Bulawayo-Shangani highway, the restoration project was funded last year to the tune of $64,000 by the United States. The site had been desecrated by illegal gold panners over the years.

The work to restore the ruins has seen an influx of archaeologists and students from various universities in the SADC region. The monument covers 4,000 square meters. The main enclosure is erected on a small hill 1,400 meters above sea level.

Nobert Nhutsve, a local historian, said the name Nalatale is thought to have been derived from the Shona idiophone “Tare” which means lines that are straight and continuous.

“The other interpretation was that its name was originally “Nhandare” (Playing Ground). We have some Shona books of the Moyo clan who claimed ownership of the site. So the names are thought to relate to this site,” he said.

“Stone-building culture is thought to have originated from Mapungugwe, in South Africa, at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers. This began sometime around 1050 to 1100 and gave birth to the Great Zimbabwe structures.

One group went south-westwards and settled at Khami in Matabeleland and later moved to Nalatale.

“This is thought to have been the royal retreat where the king would come after the rigours of administration in other area, to relax with his wives. But it is also thought that because of the beauty of the site, the king would come and confer with his sub-chiefs.”

US Ambassador Bruce Wharton, told The Zimbabwean that his government had facilitated the restoration of the ruins in order to preserve Zimbabwe’s heritage and he would personally excite American tourists to visit.

“We believe that Zimbabwe has an extra-ordinarily rich culture that is a deep source of pride. The project of restoration is also in line with the World Tourism Organisation’s theme for this year which is tourism and development. I will therefore personally excite tourists from America to come here in their numbers so that the local community can also benefit from the few dollars they will leave behind,” he said.

Nyasha Gurira, a student at Midlands State University embarking on a Masters’ Degree in Cultural Heritage Site Management, said Zimbabweans should nominate the place to the UNWTO so that is declared a World Heritage Site. “That way more tourists would visit the site and benefit the economy,” she said.

Deputy Tourism Minister Walter Kanhanga concurred that government ought to do more to market the ruins to the outside world.

“There are people like me who did not even know we had a heritage site like this one, which is rich in the history of Zimbabweans. I will therefore fight so that the site is put on the map and if that is done, we will also benefit the local people because they benefit accordingly,” he said.

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