The United States Government, through the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), recently availed US$475 000 for preservation of the iconic Great Zimbabwe Monuments World Heritage Site. The development is, among other things, expected to pave way for restoration of the historic monuments for them to continue standing majestically for decades to come, while also paving the way for the installation of modern monitoring equipment to check wall movements, among other threats.
US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Brian Nichols and National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe executive director Dr Godfrey Mahachi together with World Museum Fund director Mr Stephene Battle took part in the signing ceremony of the preservation fund that was witnessed by Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Ezra Chadzamira.
In his address, Mr Nichols said availing of the AFCP grant for preservation of Great Zimbabwe Monuments was a confirmation of the US Government's long-standing commitment to assisting Zimbabwe.
Ambassador Nichols described the monuments as a symbols of energy, talent, perseverance and hard work by the people of Zimbabwe.
"Proceeds from this fund (AFCP) will finance restoration work at Great Zimbabwe Monuments and also be used in the fight against lantana camara, which is now a menace," he said.
"Part of the funds will also be used to procure equipment to monitor dry walls movement here so that the monuments continue to stand as they are for generations to come."
Mr Nichols described the World Heritage Site as a historical archaeological site, which influenced the designing of new US Embassy offices under construction in Harare.
"We are building a new Embassy modelled along the Great Zimbabwe Monuments and every time that I pass through the place I am reminded of the real monuments here," he said.
"We hope to open the new Embassy in January next year, which further confirms the US Government's long standing commitment to Zimbabwe."
Mr Battle in his remarks described the Great Zimbabwe Monuments as one of the most important historic sites on the African continent, adding that the World Museum Fund was conscious of the centrality of the iconic world heritage site to the people of Zimbabwe.
Dr Mahachi hailed the availing of the Great Zimbabwe Monuments preservation fund, which he said will go a long way in addressing numerous challenges at the heritage site.
Besides restoring some of the structures at the monuments and curbing the "lantana camara" scourge, Dr Mahachi said the financial lifeline from AFCP will be used for capacity building of NMMZ staff countrywide to improve their skills in looking after and maintaining national historic sites.
Minister Chadzamira said Zimbabweans took great pride in the Great Zimbabwe monuments as the cradle of the country's national heritage hence the excitement over their restoration to their historic and symbolic status.
He said restoration of the monuments will not only mark the advent of new technology in national heritage preservation in Zimbabwe but also spur the growth of tourism in and around Great Zimbabwe through the anticipated influx of both domestic and foreign tourists.
Minister Chadzamira noted that previously the AFCP has benefited Great Zimbabwe through the installation of CCTV cameras.
"This time plans are afoot to upgrade surveillance technology at the monuments through employing the use of drones that will be linked to a central monitoring point," he said.
The drones will also serve as early warning systems for threats like veld fires and straying of animals into the world heritage site.
Before the signing ceremony Ambassador Nichols accompanied by Dr Mahachi and other senior NMMZ and US Embassy officials toured the monuments.