US-funded GZ preservation project completed

…stone masons trained, swathes of heritage land now lantana free

Moses Ziyambi

The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) has completed a preservation project at the Great Zimbabwe monuments which was funded by the United States government to the tune of US$475 000.

An event to commission the project was held at the monuments today April 12, 2023, and was attended by many dignitaries including the US Acting Ambassador to Zimbabwe Elaine French, local traditional leader Chief Mugabe, the Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira, NMMZ deputy board chairperson Professor Sara Feresu and World Monuments Fund project officer for Sub-Saharan Africa John Zulu.

Through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, the United States released the funding in late 2018 to cover three components of preservation: lantana camara control, conservation of the dry stone walls, and installation of an electronic real-time wall monitoring system. The conservation of the dry stone walls included the training of NMMZ stone masons.

In the wake of the event, the US Embassy, the World Monuments Fund and NMMZ released a joint statement celebrating the completion of the project which was meant ‘to preserve the structural and historic integrity of the Great Zimbabwe Monuments.’

In her remarks, French said she was glad that the partners worked diligently to identify a workable and sustainable solution for removing the invasive lantana camara weed from the environment of the monuments to make sure it does not cause damage in the future.

“As Zimbabwe’s most iconic heritage site and one of the most prominent in Africa, we are delighted to be partners in the cultural and historic preservation of Great Zimbabwe. I commend the resilience of our partners – the World Monuments Fund and the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe for working concertedly to complete the project despite a two-year Covid-19 induced delay,” she said.

Earlier on, Chief Mugabe (real name Matubede Mudavanhu) had called for greater fusion between indigenous and scientific methods to improve preservation of the heritage site.

“I am glad that many stakeholders appreciate the cultural value of this site. I call for greater financial support so that more work can be done. I also want to emphasize the importance of respecting and incorporating indigenous preservation knowledge systems in all future projects because we have always had our own methods of taking good care of the site,” he said.

In his speech, NMMZ executive director Dr Godfrey Mahachi said his organisation greatly valued the assistance rendered by the US government which made possible the establishment of new synergies against lantama camara.

“The partnerships we have created locally with universities and other stakeholders will ensure that lantana camara is managed to cause no harm to the national monuments,” he said.