Independence Week: A Journey Through Manzini City’s Historical Sites
The Kingdom of Eswatini yesterday celebrated 54 years of independence hence it suffices to refer to this week as Independence Week. As part of celebration of Independence Day, the Municipal Council of Manzini takes this opportunity to take the reader through some of the sites of historical significance that exit in the City of Manzini. One of the sites has already been declared as national monuments whilst others are still in the process. Through partnership with private tour operator, Bush Travel Tours, the Municipal Council of Manzini has established a tourist route, named Manzini Eco-City Tour, that takes one through all the historical sites. Those who wish to visit the sites are welcome to contact the Municipality and they will be duly assisted. The following are the historical sites;
- King Bhunu’s Trial Site
History states that on 21st May 1898 a hearing against King Bhunu was conducted by the Transvaal Government in Bremersdorp and a trial later held on 5th September 1898. The hearing was in connection with the killing of one, Mbhabha Sibandze. The trial was held just below what is today known as LaMvelase Clinic, opposite the Manzini library. On the day of the hearing King Bhunu was flanked by Swazi regiments who showed support for their King. On the trial site stands a pod mahogany tree – which is commonly referred to as Bhunu’s Tree. It is no surprise that the mall, which is located not too far from the trial site, was given the name, Bhunu Mall and its logo is that of a pod mahogany tree. On the site there is a plaque that reads: “This serves to commemorate King Bhunu’s ‘hearing’ conducted on this site on the 21st May 1898 and the trial on the 5th September 1898 by the Government of the Transvaal Republic”.
- The Fort Funk
The Transvaal Government erected a fort on the site where today is located the Zakhele Sports Ground. The fort was a defence measure against a possible uprising by Swazis who were against bringing King Bhunu to trial. The fort comprised large trenches on the top of a hill. Later on, the trenches were filled to form a soccer field [today known as the Zakhele Sports Ground].
- Old Showground
The Old Showground (also referred to as the Old Trade Fair) was home to the popular Bremersdorp Agricultural Show; a major event in Swaziland at the time and sponsored by the Swaziland Farmers Association in 1901. People showcased their handicraft products at the show. In 1941, Swazi soldiers who were due to depart for participation in World War II conducted their training on this site. After independence, it was named the Manzini International Trade Fair.
- Number 43 Trelawney Park, KwaMagogo
During the apartheid era a number of African National Congress agents lived in Manzini. Number 43, KwaMagogo, situated in Trelawney Park, has been documented to have been a home away from home for South African freedom fighters. During those times a number of sites in Manzini were bombed. These sites have been identified but not declared. Number 43 is in the process of being declared a historical site.
- Gordon Bennett’s Store
The store, which is located at the centre of today’s Manzini city centre opposite the Bhunu Mall along Nkoseluhlaza street, was built by George Gordon Bennett who was a member of a well-known Swazi family [the Bennetts]. Bennett grew up with King Sobhuza II at the Zombodze Royal Residence. They remained close lifelong friends such that on his death, Bennett was buried in the foot hills of the Mdzimba Mountains – the only non-member of the royal family to be accorded this privilege. This is one of Swaziland’s two surviving art deco buildings; an architectural style which became popular internationally from the 1920s. The other one is located in Pigg’s Peak. The building is currently used as an electronic goods store.
- The Old Jail
Built by the Transvaal Boers after commencement of the ZAR Administration of Swaziland in 1895. It is probably the only building which survived the burning of Bremersdorp in 1901. Unconfirmed reports state that King Bhunu was held in this jail before his trial. The building currently houses awaiting trial suspects as part of the Zakhele Remand Centre.
- Prince Velebatftu Hotel
With different owners, it was renamed Bremersdorp Hotel, Manzini Arms, Uncle Charlie’s and Prince Velebantfu Hotel. The hotel is where today sits the Riverstone Mall.
- Mzimnene Hotel
The Mzimnene Hotel is the first hotel that was built for Swazis in Manzini. It was built by William Mas in 1956. It is currently used as a bar, café and hotel.
- Old Nazarene Church
Built in Scottish style with a bell imported from Scotland, it is one of the earliest stone buildings erected by Dr David Hynd within the Manzini Nazarene Mission. First of its kind in Swaziland. The bell was used to regulate working hours in Manzini. The stone was sourced from Logoba Hill on permission from King Sobhuza II. It is currently used a museum.
- St George’s Anglican Church
This was the focal point for British religious life before independence. It was expanded in 1959. Today there sits on site a corner stone that reads: “AMDG. This stone was laid by Thomas Zululand 15 April 1959”. It has Swaziland’s earliest stained glass windows produced in 1919/1920.
- The Little Flower Chapel
The only Italian Renaissance style church building in Swaziland. The first Roman Catholic Church in Manzini. The chapel of Dominican Sisters of St Theresa’s Mission who arrived in the Kingdom in 1929.
- Old Manzini Cemetery
A number of people who contributed to the early development of Bremersdorp are buried at the old Manzini Cemetery; which is located along Mancishane street opposite the Manzini Police Station. They include Harry Darke Bailey, G.L. Wallis, H.D. Bailey (who, with E.B. Rogers, established a store which was later to be bought by Arthur Bremer along the Umzimnene River), V.M. Stewart, J.C. Du Pont, Herbert Kelly, James Howe, Arthur Bennett, William Nkwendezi, etc. Dates on the tombstones range from as early as 1887.
- District Commissioner’s Offices
The British colonial government administration offices are located near today’s King Somhlolo Park. Lately, the building had been utilized as a National Court Building until when it got gutted down by mysterious fire.