24 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
MT HAMPDEN: TAKING BACK OUR HISTORY New Parliament Building, Mt Hampden

The Sunday Mail

Veronica Gwaze

WHEN Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Graham Pennefather − who was commander of the British South Africa Police (BSAP), which accompanied the Pioneer Column from South Africa to annex Mashonaland − embarked on his arduous two-and-a-half months’ journey, his mission was to set up base in Mount Hampden.

The area, which is located about 25 kilometres north-west of Harare, in Mashonaland West province, had been named Mt Hampden by hunter Frederick Courtney Selous after an English statesman, John Hampden (1594-1643), who was reportedly reputed for both his abilities as a leader and soldier.

The mission to Mashonaland was funded by the Charter Company, a mercantile firm that was the brainchild of Cecil John Rhodes.

It was incorporated in London in 1889 to acquire and exercise commercial and administrative rights in south-central Africa.

The pre-emptive move by Rhodes was meant to ward off the Boers and Portuguese, who were also interested in the mineral riches of Mashonaland.

Careful not to anger King Lobengula and his army, which shadowed the column, Pennefather and his men crossed Shashe River on July 11, 1890.

They reached Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) on August 17 the same year.

Undeterred, they continued with their journey to Mt Hampden.

But events on the morning of September 11, 1890 proved pivotal and would change the history of Zimbabwe forever.

Lt-Col Pennefather reportedly rode to Gwebi River, near Mt Hampden, but, after failing to find water, he turned back and later camped at the site that would later become Salisbury, present-day Harare.

Thus, on September 13, two days later, they celebrated their arrival in Mashonaland and the founding of Salisbury, which was named after the then-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Lord Salisbury.

Minerals and fertile soils

Historian Sindiso Mleya said Mt Hampden was coveted by not only the British but the Germans as well, who displaced the locals in the area in order to appropriate their fertile and mineral-rich lands.

“This area was competed for by the Germans and the British. So, the settlers initially kicked out the locals and then later fought between themselves,” she told The Sunday Mail Society. Precisely, they were fighting for the gold that they had discovered around the area. The Germans were, however, overpowered and, as a result, they vacated Mt Hampden and moved south-east.”

Veteran educationist and historian Dr Caiphas Nziramasanga, who grew up in the area and had personal encounters with colonialists in 1945, indicated that the white settlers “wanted minerals in the Great Dyke”.

“We were herding cattle with my mates one day when they came, thoroughly bashed us and took all our beasts, leaving our families stranded,” recounted Dr Nziramasanga last week.

“There are places that were marked by the Germans as a way to say this is our space. Some of these markings were for mines while others were for boundaries.

“The colonialists wanted the minerals in the Great Dyke, all the way to Lions Den. The area was so precious to them; hence they even established the Charles Prince Airport.”

So, Mt Hampden becomes a historical symbol that underlines the major reasons Zimbabwe was colonised — its fabulous mineral resources and fertile soils.

Taking back our history

But where Pennefather turned back, the Second Republic is moving forward, determined to establish the new capital in the area. After President Mnangagwa broke ground on the new Parliament building on November 30, 2018, the majestic and imposing structure, which will be the nucleus of the city, has since been commissioned.

The city is envisaged to also become the new home for the superior courts, the stock exchange, the central bank, mineral auction centres, presidential palace and luxury villas.

As part of the grand project for the new metropolis, 47 farms in Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central provinces have been earmarked for development.

Work on the core infrastructure, which includes roads, water, electricity and telecommunications, has already commenced.

Rehabilitation of roads such as the Bindura-Harare highway and Nemakonde Way (formerly Lomagundi Road), connecting the current capital city and Mashonaland Central province to the Parliament building, is also underway.

In addition, the Government has drawn up a list of priority infrastructure projects set to be developed around the new city under the first phase of the project.

The concept for the new city was approved by Cabinet in December 2018, with the opening of the new Parliament building last year helping to catalyse development. An inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from the Ministries of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development; Local Government and Public Works; and National Housing and Social Amenities has since been set up to facilitate the relocation of about 300 families to make way for the project.

The multi-billion-dollar metropolis, which is anticipated to decongest Harare, will straddle 15 500 hectares and accommodate more than 1,5 million residents on completion, according to the city’s master plan that was approved by Cabinet.

Three local authorities − Harare Municipality, as well as Mazowe and Zvimba rural districts councils − will administer the city.

It is envisaged that the metropolis will be developed in four distinct phases spanning 10 years. The first phase, which will run for two years, entails the creation of traction and development infrastructure.

It is expected to be funded through Treasury and “donations from the private sector and other partners”, according to the blueprint.

Phase two will involve development of baseline infrastructure through funding from Treasury, public-private partnerships (PPPs), loans and issuance of bonds, debentures or bills. The next phase, running from year five to 10, will witness the development of commercial, residential and industrial areas through PPPs, foreign direct investment (FDI), syndicated loans, development finance and export credit finance, among other instruments. The final phase involves continued development of commercial, residential and industrial areas from year 10 going forward through private equity, PPPs, FDI and syndicated loans.


Dr Nziramasanga believes taking back Mt Hampden is a step towards embracing our history.

“It is simply a case of us going back to our history and mineral-rich place that was taken away from us by the settlers.

“The area represents the uniqueness of Zimbabwe; that is, the riches we have naturally. The place was admired by the British settlers for its wealth.”

Heritage manager and museum practitioner Confidence Tongofa said the ongoing construction and projects in the area symbolise the enduring cultural heritage of Zimbabwe.

“Mt Hampden is a heritage for future Zimbabwean generations; it portrays our values, hopes, aspirations and achievements,” he said.

He, however, said relocation of the capital city is a complex town planning and architectural decision with accompanying consequences for the old and new city.

“This is nothing new because other nations have successfully done it before; it is part of the adaptive growth being embraced by the Government in response to the ongoing urban discourse,” he added.

“However, we should be mindful that Harare is an economic and cultural hub proven over time, hence the relocation does not necessarily mean the city (Harare) is going to be abandoned.”

Town planner engineer Tendai Sambaza added that the new city must encourage public transport systems that are reliable, safe, affordable and convenient.

The private sector has come in a big way, with Dubai-based billionaire Shaji Ul Mulk, who is the founder and chairperson of Mulk International Group, currently constructing a US$500 million cyber city in Mt Hampden.

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