Monument known as the Great Wall of Zimbabwe built during the Mutapa Empire. A dispute between three traditional leaders has erupted over ownership of the historic treasure., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Makombe, Egyptian pyramids, Timbuktu: A paradox
Thursday, 05 July 2012 11:51
A fortnight ago, I walked along a path whose sole purposes was to remind everyone that they are villagers. Thus, we should preserve the goodness and quality of our respective villages for the sake of tomorrow. Status does not matter, and your living in that double-storeyed house, driving the latest car in town and using the fanciest gizmos is neither here nor there.
You are a villager, and you owe the village because it was the village that made you who you are. We are not excluding those in the Diaspora. They are all villagers.
It being a village, it is the storehouse of our whole being for generations to come.
I revisit Makombe Buildings, but this time adding two more elements — a regional flavour, in order for you to really realise the essence of that place. But I go back to Makombe Building not physically.
Despite the comings-in and goings-out of villagers from that humongous place, and notwithstanding my concerns that too many human hours are spent at Makombe at the expense of working the newly acquired land, Makombe Buildings is also in a place of its own.
Looks can be deceiving, and a first timer might actually downgrade it and think that the information they leave behind will be misplaced or be completely lost.
Although the processes are tedious, we are happy that at Makombe Buildings, they keep records intact.
Documents from yester-years with all their details can still be found at Makombe. You would think that with the hustle and bustle that goes on, some of them might vanish into thin air, but it is not like that.
Let me give a good example. When birth certificates were first introduced, their importance was never explained. In fact, it was seen as a ploy to oppress people and also collect revenue, because they were never issued for free.
Those many moons back, if I had been staying with my grandmother who called me “Hiri” or “”Hiridha” chances are that Hildegarde would not be on my certificates but “Hiri” or “Hiridha”.
Grandmothers said it the way they heard it, and the clerk also wrote it just like that because there were no birth registers. For some people, nicknames ended up as their official names.
If there are a number of you in the family born before the age of birth records, just check the information on your long birth certificates.
Go down the document and when you get to the section, “Mother of child”, and subsection “Maiden surname” you will end up with interesting findings.
Why? Whoever was responsible for getting you a birth certificate gave the name they preferred most — sometimes totems ended up as last names.
The more you were in the family, the more chances of them forgetting which surname they used when they registered your elder siblings.
Forgive them. They were just providing the information the registrar of births asked for.
My conclusion was that because it was a manual and decentralised system, it was difficult to crosscheck in order to produce uniform records in sections like mother’s maiden name.
It is not Makombe Buildings’ fault that siblings’ long birth certificates show she is the same woman but who looks like she comes from a number of families.
When most people are incapable of maintaining records like electricity bills and/or pay slips, it is incredible that this place we underestimate so much, sometimes labelling it inefficient, still holds millions and millions of records from many decades ago, and not just records from independent Zimbabwe.
This is commendable. With the challenges that this country faces, we would never have seen Government and other stakeholders prioritising national record management the way they have done.
Some day people will appreciate this great work as historians, sociologists, language experts and others use this huge repository for the betterment of this nation, because there are some people who have gone that extra mile to ensure that things work despite problems.
Maybe, records management should be taught in schools and colleges so that when we get to Makombe Buildings and other places we value the professionalism that
go into getting birth certificates, passports, death certificates and other documents.
We move to Egypt, which seems to be experiencing peace after one and half years of tumultuous protests.
At the weekend, Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was sworn in.
In what was christened the Arab Spring, the people of Egypt assembled, hollered, sweated in Tahrir Square protesting against ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
They did not vent their anger on structures that define them — the pyramids or other relics of their estimable history and civilisation. Hoseah Chipanga’s “kwachu-kwachu” (senseless destruction) was not part of their struggle.
Some are calling Tahrir Square an iconic place, but it would never replace pyramids, those structures that define Egypt as a nation. Thus today when we retrace
Egyptian history, we won’t find pieces of destruction of important relics.
Just like Makombe Buildings and Great Zimbabwe, the pyramids are a cumulative collection of some of the Egyptians’ historical, social, political, religious and economic records.
Someone one day will use that information because the crowds did not get carried away and destroy their being — throwing the baby with the bath water.
The third place is that ancient Malian city — a city that is also part of Africa’s civilisation and history.
Timbuktu to some of us is as old as the books we read then.
Never mind that we never really understood its importance and why it was so well renowned, still, we were happy that an old African city had found itself in the pages of history, including primary school history.
However, recent events in that city are endangering that long-term civilisation and posterity.
Why should the fighting in Mali endanger the historical records that Timbuktu is famed for?
Is there any reason under the sun to support the destruction of structures in Timbuktu?
It is senseless and meaningless, and puts Africa in a bad light. If we can’t value who we are, isn’t it a shame that someone will come from some netherland and tell us how to value ourselves, or never at all?
Zimbabwe has had its fair share of internal conflicts, but no one dared destroy the Great Zimbabwe.
Recently, when some war veterans went on an unsanctioned visit to Njelele, there was an outcry. This means that people understand that there are limits in every action, and it also reflects on people’s values.
If the Islamists destroy Timbuktu, in whose interests are they doing it, because those monuments and their contents are not just Malian, but they are African as well? How many centuries of African being are they destroying?
When they were placed under the Unesco World Heritage, the purpose was to protect them and make them useful until time immemorial.
What they have destroyed and damaged cannot be reconstructed. It is gone, and gone for good.
The end result is a historical narrative that is either threadbare and/or based on guess work just because someone thought that in 2012, it was time to destroy structures and contents that have been around for as long as anyone can remember?
But, even before Unesco condemned these acts of destruction, Ecowas the regional bloc and the African Union should have seen this coming and taken steps to preserve the ancient city.
Today, Timbuktu would still be intact.
Thus I believe that the hard work being done at Makombe Buildings will remain intact — a rich resource for the nation and Africa.