Ambassador’s D. Bruce Wharton’s Remarks at the Handover Ceremony of the Naletale Monument Restoration Project
Part of the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation
May 28, 1800-2000
I am truly delighted to be with you all today to celebrate the completion of the renovation project of the Naletale Monument. This afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting this important site and seeing the final product, and I am more certain than ever about the importance of this project.
My job in Zimbabwe is to lead the U.S. Government – including the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defence – in building strong and productive relations with the government and people of Zimbabwe.
To build and sustain good relations, we Americans must first understand and appreciate Zimbabwe’s own culture and history. More than just understanding, we must respect what the people of Zimbabwe accomplished before the arrival of Europeans here. We need to recognize the powerful influence this history has on modern Zimbabwe. That’s what this project is about: Respect for Zimbabwe.
In 2012, the Naletale Monument was placed on the UNESCO World’s Monument Watch list as a site in danger of deteriorating and losing its original integrity.
In response to the listing, the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section approached the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe with an offer to help reverse the deterioration and collapse of the site’s unique stone walls. This renovation project was funded by the State Department’s Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
This is a global fund created by the U.S. Congress that has supported more than 650 projects in more than 120 countries, representing a contribution of over $26 million dollars towards the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. In 2008, Zimbabwe benefited from this Fund, receiving $36,000 to improve security at the Great Zimbabwe Monument Museum to protect the artefacts on exhibit there. In 2013, we committed $64,000 to restore the Naletale Monument.
Of course, Great Zimbabwe Monument and the Khami Monument are already on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Your work to preserve and protect Naletale, underscores the tremendous value to humanity of the Shona cultures, the Torwa and Munhumutapa Kingdoms, and the Rozvi Empire. By bringing American tax dollars – the contributions of individual American citizens and businesses – to assist in restoring Zimbabwe’s monuments, my government and my embassy are saying that we recognize and respect Zimbabwe’s pre-colonial history.
Naletale is especially appropriate for restoration and preservation because it served as an educational tool for university students pursuing archaeology, cultural heritage, and museum studies at Midlands State University. The involvement of archaeology students in this project did more than rebuild walls at Naletale.
It helped train a cadre of professionals who will go on to recognize, understand, and highlight other historic sites in Zimbabwe and beyond.
Did you know that Americans made up the largest number of non-African tourists to Zimbabwe in 2014 and the New York Times ranked Zimbabwe among the top 52 places to visit in 2015? Not to mention, it made my number one destination on a series of tweets I recently wrote highlighting Beautiful Zimbabwe.
This project will support growth in the tourism industry, a sector of the economy that can grow and create jobs very quickly. Adding Naletale to the list of must-see historic sites in Zimbabwe will help develop both domestic and international tourism to the benefit of the Gweru region and all of Zimbabwe.
Finally, I hope the community of students and faculty who took part in this restoration project will go on to monitor the site and ensure that damage and further deterioration is attended to promptly. And, I must point out that the strong connection between Midlands State University and the Naletale Monument is very clearly made in the university’s logo.
So, while the U.S. remains committed to our long-standing programs to support Zimbabwe’s health, economic growth, institutional strength, and humanitarian assistance, the project we are launching today is a foundation for all the rest. Understanding, respecting, and working to protect Zimbabwe’s deep and proud history is the keystone on which all of our other partnerships must be built.
Thank you all for being part of this project. I hope that Changamire Dombo would approve.