By Khumbulani Taruvanda
Chiredzi — CHIREDZI South legislator Calisto Gwanetsa has challenged the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust (GCT) to turn former Rhodesian restriction camp, Gonakudzingwa, into a tourist attraction.
Impressed by the completion of the Runde causeway bridge that links the northern and southern parts of Gona reZhou, Gwanetsa said the brains behind the vital facility could as well think about building lodges at Gonakudzingwa.
The member of parliament (MP) was among the dignitaries who graced the commissioning of the $700 000 Oak foundation funded bridge dubbed Nkwangulatilo (rainbow) by the locals which took six months to complete.
The bridge provides easy access to the former detention camp.
Gwanetsa said if value was added Gonakudzingwa, tourists could flock to the place which is important in the country’s history of liberation.
“I challenge Hugo Westhuizen who is the Managing Director for Gona reZhou Conservation Trust, to think about the construction of lodges at Gonakudzingwa,” said Gwanetsa.
“This place occupies an important part of our history and its imperative that we bring it back, we are the generation to do that,” he said.
Gwanetsa noted that he would initiate discussions with relevant authorities so that permission for the construction and renovations of the camp site could be granted by the government.
“The place remains desolate in the present form but still captures the imagination of anyone who visits it and inspires the quest for an in-depth understanding about life, values and experience of the nationalists who spent years in the jungle in pursuit of freedom.
“l will sit down with relevant cabinet ministers so that permission can be given for turning it into a tourist attraction.”
Gwanetsa noted the place needs to be developed to tell the liberation story on its own.
“The Runde Causeway bridge has now opened the long missing lead to Gonakudzingwa where tourists will visit the camps. Even the surviving nationalists acknowledges that their wish was to ensure that the legacy of Gonakudzingwa and other detention camps across the country be preserved,” he said.
He also said the site should not only be preserved for posterity but should be declared a national monument as well.
Gonakudzingwa Restriction camp was a Rhodesian detention centre meant for “troublesome” political prisoners during the war of liberation.
The Rhodesians favoured it because there was no escape for prisoners from Gonakudzingwa because the detainees risked devoured by animals from Gona reZhou national park once they left the camp.
It was set up by colonial settler Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government in the early 1960s and captured Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)’s military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) forces and their leaders identified as terrorists were the guests of the camp.
Some of the incarcerated and isolated ZANLA and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) leaders were the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, Jane Ngwenya, Josiah Chira, Titus Mkhungulushi, among others.
The camp was closed in 1974 due to the independence of Mozambique which was hostile to Smith’s government.
But the structures which used to house the prisoners collapsed years ago and what remains are patches of concrete.
Westhuizen could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.