Makokoba now a shadow of its former glory

Arts and culture legends that helped to shape the history of Makokoba include, Dorothy Masuka (pictured), Lovemore Majaivana and The Cool Crooners among many others

Arts and culture legends that helped to shape the history of Makokoba include, Dorothy Masuka (pictured), Lovemore Majaivana and The Cool Crooners among many others

Below is Makokoba MP Tshinga Dube’s maiden Speech in the National Assembly delivered on Tuesday.

By Tshinga Dube

MAKOKOBA Township was Bulawayo’s first township for blacks, natives as they called us at that time.

It was the only township that housed all the natives, Indians as well as Asians.

The location was sold by the Sanitary Board of Bulawayo while huts were rented out to non-council members and the unemployed.

There was massive overcrowding in the houses that were mostly one roomed.

A major infrastructure development at the time was the installation of flood lights in 1929.

Makokoba Constituency is located in the Bulawayo Province and consists of high density suburbs, namely Makokoba, Mzilikazi (named after the founder of the Ndebele nation, King Mzilikazi), Barbourfields (named after a former mayor, HR Barbour, who during the colonial era, was greatly interested in the welfare of the indigenous people), (Nguboyenja named after Lobengula’s son and heir) and Thorngroove (a coloured township whose name came from the large numthorn trees in the area) as well as the National Railways of Zimbabwe residential compound of Westgate.

Established in the early 1900, the township was the first black African township in the city.

The suburb was named after the conduct of Mr Fallon, the native commissioner, who reportedly used to walk around the city with the aid of a walking stick . . .

The name comes from the word ukukhokhoba, which in the local Ndebele language means “bending and walking with a stick”.

It is home of Stanley Square, an iconic and much revered venue for Zimbabwean nationalists such as the late Vice-Presidents Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika, John Nkomo and many other politicians of note.

Even our President (Robert Mugabe) lived in Makokoba with his uncle when he was still a schoolboy.

Many of these second class citizens, as the white settlers chose to see them, were forced to turn to menial jobs for survival.

The township was the dwelling place of nationalists such as Masotsha Ndlovu, Martha Ngano, Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo, Edwin Ndlovu and Ethan Dube.

The township was initially built for migrant workers both local and foreign.

It was built at a time when the city of Bulawayo was steadily growing as the industrial hub of the country.

The white rulers at the time realised that there was a need for cheap labour that could be demanded from blacks.

Many of these second class citizens, as the white settlers chose to see them, were forced to turn to menial jobs for survival.

After construction of Makokoba Township in the early 1900, white authorities then built Mzilikazi in 1945.

This township has a history of its own in the road towards the independence of Zimbabwe.

In what was later to be termed the Bulawayo African Townships (BAT), Babourfields and Nguboyenja were added.

The constituency has a rich heritage that has spawned countless celebrities from politicians to athletes to entertainers.

It is home to the famous bus terminus popularly referred to as eRenkin, Stanley Hall, Stanley Square, McDonald Hall, Mpilo Hospital and Babourfields Stadium are part of the constituency.

Ward seven and eight of Bulawayo Municipality also make up the constituency.

Makokoba Constituency is highly populated and in recent years, it has realised an increase in the population, which has not matched by an increase in accommodation and other basic and social amenities.

The constituency has produced countless individuals who have distinguished themselves in their various fields, from business people, academics, and artists as well as athletes.

Names that quickly come to mind include the likes of Tafi Moyo (Mzilikazi) and Chikerema as well as influential families like the Ntuta, Ncgebetsha and Hlalo families.

There are also arts and culture legends like Dorothy Masuka, the Cool Crooners, and later years, individuals like Cont Mhlanga, Lovemore Majaivana and Augustine Musarurwa who composed Sikokiyana, which became a world hit.

There were also sporting legends like the Ndlovu brothers, Madinda, Peter and the late Adam and many more that helped to shape the history of Makokoba.

After independence, the first councillor of Makokoba Township was Nicolas Joel Mabodoko and the first Member of Parliament for the constituency was the late Sidney Malunga.

The development of trade unionism began in Makokoba in 1928, with its pioneers, Masotsha Ndlobu and Clemence Katali.

They advocated for improved working and living conditions for the black labourers.

There was later, a transfer of political activism from trade unionism to nationalism when the first political parties began to emerge in 1934.

However, although they were unrecognised, the union was not actually legal, and there was nothing they could do about it.”

These were the words of the late Vice President, Joshua Nkomo in his autobiography, Nkomo: The Story of My Life, describing his first footsteps into politics that is, being the president of the African Railway Employees’ Association in 1948.

Trade unionism was the bedrock on which Zimbabwean nationalist politics was built and Makokoba was central in the evolution from labour activism to home-grown political ideologies that paved the way for the country’s independence from colonial and racist rule perpetuated by white supremacists that migrated from the United Kingdom and arrived in the country in the 1800s.

These white settlers stayed on in the country until 1980 when nationalists like Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika, Benjamin Burombo, John Nkomo and so on, cut their teeth at iconic meeting places like StanleySquare in Makokoba and McDonald Hall in Mzilikazi.

They often met at these venues to map the way forward and come up with political ideas to free their people from the bondage of white rule.

It is the Rhodesia Railway Employees Association that launched the career of one of Zimbabwe’s iconic leaders. Nkomo started his career as the president of the Rhodesia Railways African Employees Association in 1948 after a series of meetings held at Stanley Square.

After that, he became president of the Federation of African Workers Union, a national office that launched him into his political career, as that very same year, he was also elected president of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress.(SRANO).

The majority of residents in Makokoba Constituency live below the poverty datum line due to the growing unemployment rates in the country in general and Bulawayo in particular.

The constituency saw an unparalleled growth in population levels as people flocked in search of greener pastures at big companies such as Kango, Radar, Dunlop, NRZ, CSC, Monarch, and National Blankets among others.

During the heydays of the city, this influx of people into the city and Makokoba was hardly felt as many were unable to secure jobs at these firms.

However, today Makokoba is a shadow of its former glory. The constituency is beset with unending economic problems brought on by the closure of numerous firms due to several crises, chief among them, sanctions imposed on the country by the West at the advent of the country’s land reform programme, that was implemented by Mugabe to address the imbalances created by colonialism.

Many lost their jobs and this created a constituency of self-reliant residents.

Many became vendors while still more migrated to South Africa where they have, unfortunately, been subjected to often barbaric treatment by our neighbours.

Today, Makokoba is full of business people, so to speak, many of whom barely earn enough to survive from one day to the next.

Others have stalls from which they vend various goods, but sadly, the younger generation has been driven towards drugs, alcohol, truancy, prostitution and a myriad of other social ills by the high unemployment rate.

Places in the constituency such as Makokoba Market, popularly known as eMkambo have become for many, the only hope at making some sort of income with which to support their families.

Many now struggle to send the children to school, increasing the number of delinquents on the streets with nothing to do from dawn to dusk.

Consequently, the only form of economic emancipation in the constituency for the old generation, is vending while our children have turned to crime.

Makokoba Constituency has been fortunate to have a fairly high literacy rate with many holding some form of academic qualifications.

The constituency has several schools namely, Mzilikazi, Litshe, Lozikeyi, Lobengula, Robert Tredgold, St. Patricks, and McKueturn primary schools as well as Mzilikazi, Sobukhazi and St. Columbus High schools.

Various churches were allocated stands on the south of Lobengula Street; between the town and the Bulawayo Municipal Compound (BMC) and the suburb of Makokoba.

The church buildings were part of the cordon sanitaire to separate the black settlement from white settlement.

The churches which had separate church buildings to service the white population in the town were expected to civilise the Africans by not only converting them to Christianity but also providing some education to them.

The Anglican Church ran a school, St. Columbus for Africans. The Catholics established St. Patrick’s which also catered for the Africans.

White girls were attending the Convent School in the city. The churches did not challenge the BSACo policy of racial segregation in the education system.

While the Anglican and the Roman Catholic churches set up their own separate schools, the other church denominations made collaborative efforts and established the United School.

The United School offered classes up to Standard 1. After that, the pupils, who included both boys and girls, proceeded to Mzilikazi Primary School which was the first primary school to be built in Mzilikazi Township, a settlement established in 1945.

The school offered education up to Standard 6.

MzilikaziPrimary School thus became the first primary school to be built by government for blacks in Bulawayo.

Later, Mzilikazi Primary School offered classes lower than Standard 2. At the time the black primary schools were run by white school heads.

Ultimately, Lotshe Primary School became a stand-alone educational facility in 1955.

Some pupils then left Lobengula Primary School to attend Lotshe Primary School, a move which shortened travelling distances for pupils living in Makokoba.

The three high schools in the constituency were at the height of the country’s economic growth among the best in the country.

However, today many are lacking the provision of a basic learning environment, which many still force to have hot sitting classes due to shortage of adequate classrooms as well as a shortage of learning aids such as text books and computers.

When Makokoba Township was built, it was the beginning of segregation according to colour lines.

Blacks were only allowed into the city so that they could be in the factories.

The whites however, realised that there was a need for some sort of the social activity to keep their black workers fairly happy despite the repressive laws governing them.

To this effect, they built several social venues in the township to provide entertainment to the blacks in the township.

Thus, they built Stanley Hall where movies and cabaret shows were held and Stanley Square where boxing matches were held, as well as youth centres such as Tshaka and Thabiso. Then the clubs were offering basketball, boxing and weightlifting, while over the weekends; boxing took place at the Stanley Square.

With the establishment of Mzilikazi, Nguboyenja and Barbourfields townships, each came with its own youth club.

Mzilikazi had the added bonus of the McDonald Community Hall, Memorial Library and an Art and Craft Centre.

Barbourfields was fortunate to get perhaps the most modern of social amenities when the city council built the massive Barbourfields Stadium and a swimming pool in the township.

Today, these places remain operational, but just barely.

Tshinga Dube is Makokoba MP (Zanu PF)

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