6 August 2010

Zimbabwe: National Heroes Acre - a Tourist Attraction


Harare — Zimbabweans in their broad totality go into a long weekend that includes the Heroes and Defence Forces public holidays - with pomp and zest.

The peace, tranquility and beauty that Zimbabwe is known for today, was brought about by the independence, that in itself was brought on by brave men and women, who sacrificed their lives for this country. National Heroes Acre or simply Heroes Acre is a burial ground in Harare for all our gallant sons and daughters whose contribution to this country's liberation is unquestionable.

It is a tourist attraction that many Zimbabweans have been unable to sample because of our culture of fear.

Let us all go to this place and see for ourselves the graves of those heroes who are buried there.

For those who died in the struggle and could not be located - their remains might be in valleys, in the mountains or anywhere in the bush - the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents them. The 57-acre site is situated on a ridge 7 km along the Harare-Bulawayo Road.

The shrine is a national monument of Zimbabwe. Work was undertaken by the Government to commemorate those who fell in the struggle for national liberation and the contemporary and future sons and daughters of Zimbabwe whose dedication and commitment to the nation justify their burial there.

Government started work on the Heroes Acre in 1981, one year after Independence. The design and artwork used at the site was done by seven artistes from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and 10 local artistes. Over 250 local workers were involved in the project at the height of construction.

The black granite stone used for the main construction was quarried from Mutoko, some 140 km north-east of Harare. The Heroes Acre is protected under the Natural Resources Act. Those heroes subordinated their personal interests to the collective interest of Zimbabwe. They accepted and endured pain, suffering and brutality with fortitude even unto death.

National Hero Status is the highest honour that can be conferred to an individual and the recipient is entitled to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. The Statue of the Unknown Soldier commemorated the many Zimbabweans who died in the liberation war. The statue is bronze sculptured and consists of three figures, one woman and two men, a flagpole with the Zimbabwe National Flag and Tomb for the Unknown Soldier.

The Eternal Flame sits on a 40 metre high tower. It was lit at Independence celebrations and depicts the spirit of Independence. The tower is the highest point of the site and can be seen from parts of Harare. This tower, built at the top of the southern hill is accessible through a flight of stairs extending from the foot of the hill.

Why should we visit Matopos National Park in Bulawayo to see the graves of colonialist Cecil John Rhodes and his crony Star Jameson and fail to visit our own 67 heroes buried at the national shrine just a short distance from the city centre?

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