The rape of our heritage sites: Part Two

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THE Matobo National Park can claim to be the oldest in the country, with its origins in the 1902 will of Cecil John Rhodes.
Rhodes left his Matopos and Nyanga Estates to the “People of Rhodesia,” for recreational purposes, and these form the core of today’s two National Parks.
The Rhodes Trust, through elected committees, still have an oversight role.
Debate has started raging about the wisdom of keeping a legacy of colonialism in two of the most respected historical sites the Matopos Hills and the Nyanga Estates as it has emerged that the two prime areas of Zimbabwean cultural tourism and world Heritage Sites are still administered under the Rhodes Estate Act 10/1978, 41/1978 (s. 43); R.G.N. 102/1979; S.Is 78/1986, 79/1986.
The debate comes in the wake of revelations by The Patriot last week that the Matopos has been turned into a ‘small England’.
However, it has also emerged that organisations such as the Matobo Conservation Society were getting handsome financial support from the Rhodes Trust to carry out activities that were compatible to the wishes of Cecil John Rhodes as guided by the piece of legislation and his will.
The Rhodes Estate Act is a piece of legislation promulgated in the Rhodesian era. It is meant to safeguard two properties left by Rhodes.
These are the Rhodes Nyanga Estate and the Rhodes Matopos Estate, and government could amend the Acts, if it wishes to use the estates for other purposes.
The two pieces of legislation are tied to Rhodes’ Will through the Rhodes Estate Act and the Parks and Wildlife Act and the Government can amend them if it wants.
Community elders around the Estate especially in Matopos said if the Estate is designated for resettlement the move would silence critics of the Land Reform Programme for good.
Guided by the spirits of Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi and Chaminuka whose wills to reclaim our land were disregarded by white people- the inqama Settlers – a group of ex-combatants and villagers who spearheaded land occupations in Matabeleland South were evicted from part of the vast Estate after they forcibly occupied it, since then the land has not been occupied, thanks to the Rhodes Estate Act.
The attempted occupation stemmed from a historical dispute when in 1953 a large area comprising today’s National Park, and the Khumalo and Gulati Communal Lands were designated as the Rhodes Matopos National Park.
Some years later, this greater area was reduced, with a central National Park from which residents were removed, and two communal lands, Gulati in the north and Khumalo in the south, into which indigenous inhabitants were resettled and from which wildlife was translocated back into the National Park.
Man and beast were now separated!
At this time, the western portion of the Park was declared a Game Park, and subject to specific regulations while the remainder of the Park was to remain a National Park for ‘recreational purposes’ as earlier stated in Rhodes’ will.
In 1982, a portion of the farm Mineral King, running down the Maleme Valley, was incorporated into the National Park, and at the same time the Matobo Recreational Park was declared which encompassed Lake Matopos to the north of the National Park. These are the final boundaries of today’s present Matobo National Park.
Matabeleland South province with rural areas within Rhodes’ ‘property’ has been stalked by serious perennial droughts over the years, while livestock succumbed to death due to lack of pastures, yet across the boundary fence the grass remained green and abundant.
Villagers are routinely subjected to ill-treatment by parks guards for subsistence hunting ‘poaching’ in the park, courtesy of an Act that has secluded them from their inheritance.
According to the Parks and Wildlife Act, the minister responsible for the environment appoints the Rhodes Matopos Committees.
Section 11 of the Act states that, the Parks Board shall establish the two committees with special responsibilities for the Estates.
The committees consist of a chairman and a deputy, both of whom would be members of the Parks Board.
A relic of Zimbabwe’s colonial past-the 320 000 hectare Rhodes Matopos Estate, about 40 kilometres southwest of Bulawayo- will remain untouched thanks to the ‘water tight’ will left by the godfather of British imperialism, Cecil John Rhodes.
Although the property is listed as State Land, the Government is powerless to do as it pleases with the estate as the land is tied to the Rhodes’ will through the Parks and Wildlife and Rhodes Estate Acts.
It emerged that the Rhodes Matopos Estate – which encompasses the Matopos National Park and the Matopos Research Station was ‘personal property’ of Rhodes whose will is being adhered to religiously.
Rhodes bequeathed the property to the state in his will.
Two committees – the Rhodes Nyanga and the Rhodes Matopos committees –run the properties on behalf of Rhodes.
Variuos statutory instruments promulgated by the Government after independence have not impinged on Rhodes’ will as regards his personal properties in the country.
The Rhodes Estate Act is a piece of legislation defined as an Act to provide for the development and maintenance of Rhodes Estates and provide for the administration and use of the Nyanga and Matopos Funds.
But the Act further states that the Trustees shall administer the Estates in accordance with Rhode’s Will.
“The Trustee shall not exercise any of the powers conferred by the will or by section five or seven unless there has been prior consultation with the Rhodes Nyanga or Rhodes Matopos Committees” reads section 4 (2).
The Act also compels Trustees to defy ministerial directives. Part III 14 (1) “The Trustee may, subject to such conditions as he may impose, delegate and assign any of his powers and duties in terms of the Will or this Act to the Minister and may at any time revoke any such delegation or assignment.”
This explains why senior government officials have been too powerless to do anything regarding the resettlement and other development projects for indigenous people in the area.
In addition, though the President is cited as the trustee of the Rhodes Funds, he is compelled to administer them in accordance with the provisions of the Will and the Rhodes Estate Act.
Cecil John Rhodes also “prohibited” at the World View Area atop the Matopo Hills “within a radius of two kilometres of the grave” of Rhodes.
Part II section 5 (1) of the Act on General Powers of Trustee in relation to Estates
(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Will, the Trustee may, subject to this section and of sections four and six, in addition to using the Estates in the manner set out in the Will—(a) use portions of the Estates for agricultural purposes, including forestry, fisheries and the conservation or management of wild life.
An interesting extract from the “Will the late right honourable Cecil John Rhodes” In the second schedule of the Rhodes Act (Section 2) reads in part: “-3. I admire the grandeur and loneliness of the Matopos in Zimbabwe (although there were people living there ) and therefore I desire to be buried in the Matopos on the hill which I used to visit and which I called the ‘View of the World’ in a square to be cut in the rock on the top of the hill covered with a plain brass plate with these words thereon—“Here lie the remains of Cecil John Rhodes” and accordingly I direct my executors at the expense of my estate to take all steps and do all things necessary or proper to give effect to this my desire and afterwards to keep my grave in order at the expense of the Matopos and Bulawayo Fund hereinafter mentioned.
6. I direct my Trustees on the hill aforesaid to erect or complete the monument to the men who fell in the first Matabele war at Shangani in Zimbabwe the bas-reliefs for which are being made by Mr. John Tweed and I desire the said hill to be preserved as a burial place but no person is to be buried there..”
Some of the properties that lie underutilised and whose activities are not benefitting the people of Zimbabwe listed in the Rhodes Matopos are as follows: MATOPOS ESTATES
(in hectares) 1. Remaining Extent of Hazelside 2 593. 2. Lucydale 2 308. 3. Longsdale 2 638.
4. R/E Sauerdale Block 21 766. 5. Remaining Extent of Westacre Creek 5 244. 6. The World’s View 4 224. 7. Mineral King Extension 77. 8. Subdivision A of Manzana 13. 9. Remaining Extent of Manzana 211 39 074.

Next week we touch on Nyanga.

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