Former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe died on the 6th of September 2019. His body is lying in state as a mausoleum is being constructed at the National Heroes Acre. Questions have been raised as to whether it is necessary to have a lavish mausoleum for a man whose legacy is controversial. From a tourism standpoint, Mugabe’s tomb could be what is needed to attract attention to Zimbabwe’s most important monument.
The National Heroes Acre which is about 5km from Harare City Center along the A5 highway to Bulawayo is a pristine and neatly maintained monument dedicated to those who served the country selflessly especially during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Iconic Zimbabweans likes Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda, Josiah Tongongara, Solomon Mujuru are buried at this shrine.
The shrine was built by the North Korea firm Mansudae Overseas Projects in the early 80s. There is a small museum at the entrance with rotating exhibitions mainly related to the first and second Chimurenga wars. The museum itself is underwhelming given the trove of iconic figures interred at the site.
The shrine proper is about half a mile towards the hill. The lawns are usually well-cut and generally the place is clean. There are murals around the area depicting the events of the liberation war. Up the hill to the flame are some amazing steps that might require some level of fitness to climb. There is also a a statue of three soldier commonly referred to as Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier. That’s just about it.
The entrance fee is around $10 and the place is usually devoid of much activity except when there is a burial. Currently there are less than 100 visitors a day on a normal day which is a far cry for a place that holds such high esteem.
Nobody has yet seen the designs of Mugabe’s Mausoleum , however; given the Mugabes’ lavish taste, it is certain that the structure will be extravagant and exotic. This might be what is needed to stimulate interest in visiting this place. There are very little experiences in Harare and a visit to the Heroes Acre could become a routine recommendations for tourists and locals alike.
It might take some time but as the memory of Mugabe fades into the horizon, more and more people will become interested in understanding the man. The same happened with Lenin’s Mausoleum which now attracts about 2.5 million visitors every year. Entrance to Lenin’s tomb is free but businesses around the Mausoleum do benefit from the large number of visitors.
Though controversial, this mausoleum can become the draw card to a national monument which few locals even care to visit. This all depends on how the state markets and opens it up as a destination worthy of a visit.
Mausoleums have become huge tourists attractions around the world. One of the most popular destinations in India is The Taj Mahal which is a mausoleum housing the tomb of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was constructed between 1632 and 1653. Today it receives 10 million visitors per year.