By Byron Mutingwende
The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ)’s museum has been hailed as a repository of heritage and national history.
Speaking at the Sanganai hlanganani World Tourism Expo Buyers Cocktail held at the Bulawayo Railway Museum, NRZ General Manager, Mr. Lewis Mukwada said his organisation’s partnership with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) would open more avenues and opportunities for the museum.
“The Sanganai Hlanganani World Tourism Expo 2019 has presented us with an opportunity to host such a huge number of people after some time. The last time that our museum received such international attention was in 1972 when it was opened to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the arrival of the first train in Bulawayo on 4 November 1897.
“Though over the years it has gained reputation as a tourist venue, the 2019 Sanganai Hlanganani World Tourism Expo has really put it on the spotlight with local and international patrons as most of our visitors have previously been school children. It is my belief that this partnership with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority will open more avenues and opportunities for our museum. We applaud ZTA for this worthwhile partnership,” Mr. Mukwada said.
He said the museum is currently severely under-marketed hence the coming on board of the ZTA will raise its profile both locally and internationally to higher levels.
Mr. Mukwada reiterated NRZ’s commitment to ensure high quality exhibits at the museum as it boasts of some invaluable historical rail artefacts that have shaped Zimbabwe’s destiny as a country economically, socially and development wise.
He added that as an organisation, the NRZ has not been doing enough to support the museum since it is largely self-funding – a development that has somewhat affected its ability to operate at full throttle.
Mr. Mukwada was grateful to individuals and organisations of the Friends of the Museum who have been helping with the upkeep of the museum in various ways and added that the museum cannot rely solely on the support of the company alone.
“We welcome any form of assistance from you all to keep this historical railway heritage running. Let me therefore invite you all to become friends of the museum and keep your railway history alive.
“Ladies and gentlemen, NRZ’s drive towards diversification into tourism is not only endowed in the railway museum but stretches to our safari excursions using steam locomotives which you have just experienced on your way to this historical heritage,” Mr. Mukwada added.
The NRZ steam trains carry tourists and steam enthusiasts from all over the world to local tourist resort places such as Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Kuimba Shiri, Fig tree, Khami and Matopos among others as the institution thus contributes to the country’s tourism sector.
Besides the steam train excursions, the NRZ varies its tourism flavour with the Premier Class Brand, which it is currently running on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls route.
To further boost the tourism drive for the local people, NRZ also introduced the chartered trains both for steam and diesel locomotives to encourage the local people to partake in joy rides, parties, anniversaries, conferences and other conventions.
Welcoming delegates to City of Bulawayo, known as the City of Kings and Queens, Resident Minister for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Judith Ncube, said everyone who had come to the 12th edition of Hlanganani/Sanganai had earned a “royal status”.
“I am proud to be associated with Bulawayo, a city known for its rich history and heritage hence the choice of today’s function plays into our rich history as a City very well. Further a city that has managed, unlike others, to retain its cleanliness and is at the fore-front in the National Clean-Up initiatives.
“The National Railways of Zimbabwe Museum is one of the historic attractions that we have as a city. Its oldest exhibit dates back to 1897. This place houses one of the most historic rail coaches of a historic gentleman who does not need introduction; Cecil John Rhodes, who as history records, was born in Britain and studied at Oriel College in Oxford, served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. Most of the exhibits we see today cannot be a reality had it not been for his dream to construct a railway from Cape to Cairo,” Minister Ncube said.
The City of Bulawayo boasts of several iconic tourist attractions, such as the nearby Matobo Hills, which though in Matebeleland South is situated only a 30-minute drive from the City.
Minister Ncube encouraged delegates to find time to visit and marvel at the beauty of Zimbabwe.
“Matobo Hills is also home to the grave of the Matebele King, King Mzilikazi, father to King Lobengula who founded this, our great City. It is therefore a very significant historic place.
“The City also boasts of lots of business opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry including lodges and hotels. The need for same is obvious on occasions like this, the ZITF and many other such. My office and the City Council are ready to engage any potential investors in this and other sectors of interest,” Minister Ncube said.
She added that the hosting of the annual tourism showcase, Hlanganani/Sanganai – World Tourism Expo in Bulawayo over the past 4 years has been a much welcome move as it profiles the beautiful city and affords stakeholders an opportunity to meet the global tourism players like buyers and exhibitors.
“We therefore are humbled to host you today and we hope your stay will be a memorable one. I am certain that from this visit you will see that we are indeed a must visit destination and we hope you will include us in all your future travel plans. This is an indication that once you visit Zimbabwe it will be very hard to get it out of your heart,” she added.