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Stanley Square in state of disrepair

by Staff reporter
06 Mar 2020 at 05:59hrs | Views
STANLEY Square, one of the institutions associated with the nascent stage of the country's liberation movement, in Bulawayo's Makokoba suburb is in a serious state of disrepair in sharp contrast to its iconic and historical status.  

On Wednesday, reporters encountered tall grass, at some portions totally concealing the concrete benches while in some partly covering them with some trees growing in between them.  Some of the benches have caved in and the stage stands with worn out paint and dilapidated wooden tiles.

The only new thing on the stage is the youth games banner erected in 2013 inscribed, "11th Edition Zimbabwe National Youth Games" and three paper plates left by some residents who recently had lunch at the spot.  

The ablution facilities have long been shut. The situation is better at Stanley Hall, although the paint on the front is worn out.

Built in 1936 as a recreational centre, Stanley Hall and Stanley Square have been declared a Heritage Site by the Government but are still administered by the Bulawayo City Council.

The facility became popular with a number of activities for boxing, creative arts and most importantly hosting political gatherings in the fight for Independence.  

Veteran playwright Mr Cont Mhlanga believes that since the main programme of the Independence Day celebrations is coming to Bulawayo, for the first time since 1980, there should be a deliberate narrative to promote the preservation of Stanley Hall and Stanley Square and all other institutions symbolising the history of the liberation.  

"It is important to preserve such places but I think what has been lacking is the narrative that documents the history of these institutions and how important it is that they are preserved," he said.  

Veteran nationalist Abraham Nkiwane, who fought for the independence of Zimbabwe and Zambia, in a recent interview  reminisced how in the late 1940s, he and his peers at the time met at Stanley Hall under the Gama Sigma Club, a voluntary organisation that attracted young African intellectuals.  He said he met the likes of Tennyson Hlabangana, a Mazibisa, a Mr Rubatika from Hope Fountain Mission, a Mr Dzviti, W Makubalo, and others.

Later, they were to interact with degree holders like the late former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, Enoch Dumbutshena and Stanlake Samkange.

Nkiwane said Stanley Hall became a centre for many activities of all sorts, cultural, educational, political and trade unionism with the likes of Grey Mabhalane Bango joining in the fray.

"During those days to us it did not matter where you came from. One would speak his language and others would make an effort to learn. We understood each other very well, one speaking his own language and the other doing the same.  

"You can see that we were serious about discussing pertinent issues at that time compared to the current youth, a majority of whom find pleasure in going for beer binges at the expense of important issues that affect their communities. The meetings were usually chaired by a welfare officer from the council. Sometimes specialists in different fields were invited to deliver a lecture," said Nkiwane.  He said they also competed in reciting plays from William Shakespeare and even had a cast to act.  

"We derived pleasure in acting, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, in fact almost all the Shakespeare plays. We even did a Russian one, What Man Lives By. We also did Alan Paton's Cry The Beloved Country. We took those plays around and when we took Cry The Beloved Country to the centres we had visited before we attracted a lot of blacks, this observation to me might have been the beginning of my political awakening," said Nkiwane.

He said around that time, they started communicating with the City Youth League formed in Salisbury (Harare) led by James Chikerema, George Nyandoro and Mushonga.  

"They then asked us to provide a leader from our group. They insisted that the person to lead should come from Bulawayo and so we looked around us and gave them Samkange who had graduated with a degree in History and English, but he was turned down by Chiki (Chikerema) on the grounds that there was nothing new in him since they came from the same area.

"We then proposed the name of Dumbutshena, a holder of Laws Degree and again Chikerema said there was no difference with Samkange as he also came from Zvimba. The City Youth League members said they wanted someone from Bulawayo and its surroundings. We were in a fix. It was at that time that somebody mentioned that we should consider a chief welfare officer from the Rhodesia Railways, (late Vice-President) Joshua Nkomo. The core of us then asked about his educational background and when we were told that he had attended Tsholotsho Government School, there was a burst of laughter," recalled Nkiwane.  

"We could not imagine ourselves being led by somebody who had done courses like carpentry and building. Tsholotsho taught mainly practical courses and within our group some even said "udaka boy" for this. Let us be serious gentlemen.

"However, after some discussions it was agreed that let us try this Nkomo chap, so he was invited to participate in a debating competition, we were testing him. He debated against our member Dumbutshena and we were shocked at the level of understanding of issues this Nkomo fellow exhibited and I can say he won our hearts. When we set eyes on him, we saw a handsome man and at that time Nkomo was slim and he won us. We then forwarded his name to Chikerema and he was accepted. That is how Nkomo came into politics, he was invited by others and never sought a position.

"We did not know him and the same applies to former President Mugabe who was a teacher just on the outskirts of Bulawayo at Hope Fountain."

Zanu-PF Politburo member and acting Bulawayo provincial coordinator Absolom Sikhosana said Stanley Hall and Stanley Square are very important monuments  

"We have a big problem because our city is run by these MDC councillors and they have neglected these facilities because perhaps the liberation history of this country does not mean anything to them. The Stanly Hall is were meetings were held and the Square is where the bigger ones with the people wee also held so it is important that they are taken care of," he said.

Source - chronicle