Farirai Machivenyika and Elliot Ziwira
President Mnangagwa yesterday toured the new Parliament building under construction in Mt Hampden on a busy day for the Head of State during which he also toured the site where the Mbuya Nehanda memorial statue will be erected in the city centre and an art gallery on the western outskirts of the capital where the statue is being carved.
The President said the erection of a memorial statue for Zimbabwe’s First Chimurenga war icon, Mbuya Nehanda, in Harare was part of efforts to document the country’s history, especially the fight against colonial rule.
Speaking during a tour of Nyati Gallery near Snake Park, where the statue of the icon is being made by sculptor Cde David Mutasa, President Mnangagwa said the Government decided to honour Mbuya Nehanda for the heroic rebellion against colonialism in which she paid the ultimate price by being hanged on April 27, 1902.
The memorial statue is being erected at the intersection of Samora Machel Avenue and Julius Nyerere Way in the capital.
President Mnangagwa said the onus was on those who took part in the fight against colonial rule to record the country’s history.
“The issue is that if us, former freedom fighters don’t document our history and where we came from, the young generation will not know where we came from. So we should depart after making sure that we have recorded our history.
“Mbuya Nehanda led the war during the First Chimurenga and she led us when we fought during the Second Chimurenga that is why we are recognising her so that the young generation will know who led the war against the colonial regime,” he said.
The President scoffed at critics in some quarters claiming that the erection of statues of liberation war icons was idolatry.
“Those who say that also carry crosses around their necks and pictures symbolising Jesus Christ. Why wear that cross? If they were not part of us, we would have told them to go back to their countries of origin.
“What is wrong with us recognising those who led us during the liberation war? We recognise Jesus Christ because he died for us and we are also recognising Mbuya Nehanda because she led us during the war,” he added.
Apart from the statue that will be erected in Harare’s CBD, another one will be erected at the new Parliament in Mt Hampden where the new capital city is being constructed.
Earlier on, the President had toured the site of the Mbuya Nehanda memorial statue.
Director Actuarial Services in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works Mr Phillip Mukura said the project was 80 percent complete, adding that the December 9 deadline for completion was within reach, in spite of the initial challenges the project faced.
“We are at 80 percent completion, which in our view is good enough, as we race against our December 9, 2020 deadline. We have done the sub-structure, which is the pile foundation. Now we are putting the steel girders, structural steel frames and the supporting pillars,” Mr Mukura said.
The statue will be mounted on a rotating platform, 6,5 metres above ground level, to allow enough room for haulage trucks.
On the significance of immortalising the heroine’s statue to keep the spirit of the struggle intact he said: “To Zimbabweans, this monument represents a way of celebrating our heroes. This monument represents Nehanda, the spirit medium, who played a crucial role in the liberation struggle that gave us the independence we celebrate today.”
On his fourth site visit to the new Parliament building, President Mnangagwa expressed satisfaction with the progress made.
Construction was expected to be completed by March next year but is now due for completion in September of the same year following disruptions that were caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There has been tremendous progress and achievements in terms of construction and finishing. I am sure the constraints came around as a result of Covid-19. Arrangements have been made for technicians who had been out of the country to come back and I believe that from next year, again construction would be in full pace,” President Mnangagwa said.
The President, who was accompanied on the tour by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo and his deputy, Marian Chombo, who is also the legislator for Zvimba North where the new Parliament building is located, said a new State House would also be constructed in the area.
In his remarks, Minister Moyo said: “It was supposed to be completed by March (2021) and we thought Covid-19 would have slowed down in June or July and we were going to bring back the Chinese experts as well as our own people.
“Covid-19 intensified around that time and we could not bring back the experts nor could we allow our people to come here. Now the President has cleared that all those who are doing projects not only here, should come back so we think by September we should have completed,” he said.
Deputy Minister Chombo said her constituency was honoured that the new Parliament would be housed there.
The building is being constructed by the Shanghai Construction Group using a grant of approximately US$98 million extended to Zimbabwe by the Chinese government.
The new Parliament building will replace the current 100-seat building which is now considered to be too small to accommodate the country’s 350 legislators.
It will comprise two conference centres, a banquet hall which can accommodate 1 000 people, offices for parliamentary officers and several boardrooms for parliamentary committee sessions.
There will also be common areas, offices, special services, general public and media areas, 800 parking bays, 50 of which are reserved for VVIPs, and associated services.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa said Government will remove the remains of Allan Wilson and the 34 soldiers he commanded from Matopos and rebury them at the site of their defeat by King Lobengula’s Imbizo Regiment that was led by Mtshana Khumalo during the Battle of Pupu.
General Khumalo has since been declared a national hero.
The President said it was ironic that the settler regime had honoured Allan Wilson by naming a secondary school after him when he had lost in battle.
“As the Second Republic, we will remove the remains of those colonialists and rebury them where they lost the battle. How can the vanquished be honoured when the victors are not honoured?” President Mnangagwa asked.
The unveiling of Pupu National Monument in Lupane in Matabeleland North is set for this week but the exact date is yet to be confirmed.
During this year’s Heroes Day virtual address, President Mnangagwa announced that Gen Khumalo would be honoured alongside Queen Lozikeyi, Mgandani Dlodlo and Mbuya Nehanda.