National Heroes Acre or simply Heroes Acre is a burial ground and national monument in Harare, Zimbabwe. The 23-hectare (57-acre) site is situated on a ridge seven kilometers from Harare towards Norton. Its stated purpose is to commemorate Patriotic Front guerrillas killed during the Rhodesian Bush War (Liberation War) , and contemporary Zimbabweans whose dedication or commitment to their country justify their interment at the shrine. Persons buried here are considered heroes by the incumbent Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front regime, which has administered the country since independence in 1980. Indeed, most of the recipients of the 'hero status' were known to be Zanu-PF comrades. The actual monument itself was modelled after two AK-47s lying back-to-back; the graves are meant to resemble their magazines monument is an early example of work of the North Korean firm Mansudae Overseas Projects. It closely mirrors the design of the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery in Taesong-guyŏk just outside Pyongyang North Korea.
Zimbabwe’s independence came about through the suffering and supreme sacrifice by patriotic sons and daughters of the soil who waged a long and arduous struggle against the colonial regime.
Our independence was not given to us at the Lancaster House constitutional conference in December, 1979, but was won on the battlefield in 16 years of bitter war of liberation, which resulted in tens of thousands of our people perishing.
The National Heroes Acre, our revered shrine, is the pride of the people of Zimbabwe. It is a symbol of bravery and selflessness and sacrifice of those whose remains are laid to rest there. Towering majestically is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which symbolises the final resting place for tens and thousands of Zimbabweans who sacrificed their lives for the sake of our freedom and independence, but whose remains are scattered in valleys, disused mines, caves, unknown graves and mass graves spread across the nation and in neighbouring states. Zimbabwe’s war of liberation was the epic of the revolutionary spirit that characterised modern Zimbabweans. We are fighters, and are resilient in every sphere, political, economic and social.
Before independence many of our people were detained under sub-human conditions by the notorious Rhodesian regime, and some of them spent long spells in detention without trial. Tens of thousands of our gallant fighters sacrificed their lives so we could be free from the colonisers. In honour of these fallen heroes, the Government built shrines across the country where heroes of the war could be declared and their remains interred. All ten provinces have a provincial heroes’ acre. All heroes’ acres are administered by National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.
Conferment of hero status is a great honour in recognition of these gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe. The heroes are classified in three categories and generally reflect the departed hero’s or heroine’s contribution to the nation. The status is determined by the State on a case by case basis.
According to the National Heroes Act (Chapter 10:16), designation of heroes is done by the President “where the President considers that any deceased person who was a citizen of Zimbabwe has deserved well of his country on account of his outstanding, distinctive and distinguished service to Zimbabwe, he may, by notice in Gazette, designate, such a person a national, provincial or district hero of Zimbabwe.”
National hero status is the highest honour that can be conferred on individual and the recipients are entitled to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. The other status’ are liberation war hero (formerly district hero). The former is then buried at the provincial heroes’ acres while the latter is buried at district shrines if their families agree.
These sacred shrines were built to honour the heroes of Zimbabwe, past, present and future. The heroes include national leaders, freedom fighters and dedicated supporters of the national liberation struggle who participated in or undertook revolutionary activities that contributed directly to the final victory and declaration of independence on April, 1980.
They cherished qualities such as loyalty, dedication and patriotism.
Their actions were guided by the ideas of camaraderie and love. Their support for the cause of freedom and justice was indeed unwavering. They accepted and endured pain, suffering and brutality with fortitude, even unto death.
Some of the heroes include contemporary and future sons and daughters of Zimbabwe of the same calibre as those fallen heroes whose dedication and commitment to the nation of Zimbabwe.
Work on the National Heroes' Acre was started in September 1981, a year after Zimbabwe’s independence. Ten Zimbabweans and seven North Korean architects and artists were recruited to map the site's layout. 250 local workers were involved in the project at the height of its construction. Black granite was used for the main structures and was quarried from Mutoko, about 140 kilometers northeast of the capital city Harare, then known as Salisbury.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier recognises unidentified fighters who lost their lives during the liberation struggle. This sculpture features a bronze statue of three guerrilla fighters one female, and two males, a flagpole, and an ornate artifice.
The Eternal Flame
The Eternal Flame rests atop a tower measuring some forty meters. It was lit at independence celebrations in 1982 and embodies the spirit of Zimbabwean independence. The tower is the highest point at Heroes' Acre; it can readily be viewed from Harare.
Two walls on either side of the monument carry murals depicting the history of Zimbabwe, from pre-colonial times through to the Chimurenga War, the Rhodesian Bush War and independence under all the national heroes and heroines.
Near the entrance of Heroes' Acre is a museum dedicated to the rise of African nationalism in Zimbabwe and the anti-colonial struggle, showcasing artefacts, photographs, documents and other paraphernalia from the war and the period shortly after independence.
Examples of Notable People buried at Heroes Acre:
Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo
Dr. Timothy Stamps
Josiah Tongogara…. to name a few.
Credits: The National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, Wikipedia and various sources online.
Photo Credits: ResearchGate, Reuters.com, Zimbabwe Tourism, Office Holidays and Tripadvisor.