Easily the most important political site in Harare if not all of Zimbabwe, Heroes Acre is located about ten minutes from the city center. The main premise of the monument is fairly universal to colonized countries: to commemorate those who have sacrificed in the revolution. In this case, the war in question was the Rhodesian Bush War that lasted from 1964 to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Additionally, those who are deemed by the current regime to have dedicated their lives to the country in a sufficient fashion are given a resting place. The monument was designed by North Korea in conjunction with Zimbabwean architects, with construction starting in 1981.
I visited with my guide during my first full day in the city. There is a small museum at the entrance of the site with rotating exhibitions. On my visit this included a very moving review of the Chibondo massacre, atrocities committed by the Rhodeisan government (read: Ian Smith) in the 1970’s. After this we went to the memorial proper, just a minute’s drive from the entrance. Designed to look like an AK-47 (I did not see this comparison), it is made from black granite and includes a towering obelisk with the obligatory eternal flame looking over the statue of an unknown soldier. Two bronze friezes with revolutionary themes flank the base of the somewhat garish memorial, with the graves of those in question tastefully organized in a semi-circular fashion on terraces above. We departed after spending maybe an hour on-site.
Aesthetics aside, this was a valuable visit or several reasons. First, I had read several books over the past few months about the country and many of the main characters (Edgar Tekere, Joshua Nkomo, Sally Mugabe, etc.) were found here; it was satisfying to close the circle on their lives. Second, we were the only people visiting during a weekday morning, which added to the somewhat odd majesty of the surroundings. Lastly, the historical significance of the site cannot be overemphasized; it will likely continue to make history as there are two open graves next to Sally Mugabe, presumably for the recently deposed President and his second wife.
No visit to Washington D.C. is complete without visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Arlington National Cemetery. Ditto Harare and Heroes Acre; it’s a must see when in the city.
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