This is a multicultural village centre established in 2004 with funding from Kellogg Foundation. The center is located close to 60km on the West of Plumtree town in Masendu area in Bulilima District.
Management of the Facility: The facility operates under a registered Trust called Masendu Valley Trust. The Trust is made up of six Kalanga villages which include Chiborama, Thandawani, Mambo, Masendu Central, Makundi and Ziluma Villages. Each village is equally represented in the enterprise. Each village participates in the management committee and is represented at the centre by a hut that depicts their village and way of life. The committee relies on a facilitator/coordinator who lives in the area and commits part of his time to the village. Otherwise the facilitator is fully employed by a NGO as a development facilitator in charge of other programmes. Infrastructure: The facility comprises of six roundavels, a central reception area with offices, storeroom and meeting room and a large Gazebo with a capacity of 150 people. The gazebo stage is where most functions for the villages are held and this also acts as a tourist relaxing area.
Accommodation – all the six roundavels are designed to provide overnight facility. Each room has a capacity of four single beds. Maximum capacity of the center is 24. The centre is also supported by a network of village hotels/votels in the area. Villagers built special huts in their homesteads to accommodate tourists who are willing to spend their stay within the village homesteads. The votels are pegged at us$30 per night which accrues to the owner of the facility.
Amenities: The facility is electrified and is equipped with a generator which serves as back up. Water is supplied by a borehole. Clinic and grocery shops are in close vicinity. The centre is also equipped with its own PA system and computers. The computers were brought through a project by the Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP) and National University of Science and Technology (NUST). The gazebo provides a refreshing meeting and functions space for both visitors and locals.
Access: The facility is easily accessible by road from Plumtree. The 60 km drive required a rough terrain vehicle. The access road is regularly serviced and it provides visitors with a nice scenic experience as it passed through different types of attractive village set ups. Public transportation to the facility is not reliable and one has to make special arrangements to get visitors to the site.
Activities: The main activity of the area is cultural activities. Villages exhibit their way of life, crafts and traditional wares and dances. Every year, the Masendu community organizes a cultural event. To sustain their cultural and traditional practices, the community has dedicated every Wednesday of each week to teaching the young people about their culture. This has potential to enhance the cultural product. The village hosts also offer a variety of tourist activities largely built around the day to day way of living. Attractions: The main attraction to the area is the Kalanga culture that is exhibited through the make and crafts of the 6 roundavels on the facility and the village life style that can be experienced during stay in votels. The Musendu Cultural Festival is held yearly at Masendu Cultural Village in September. Its major aim is to manifest and boast the Kalanga Culture although it accommodates other sub-cultures in the province and beyond.
Awareness and Marketing: The centre is being marketed through the Kellogg Foundation, Bulilima-Mangwe website, and the cultural village monthly newsletter. The cultural festival is also featured on the National Arts Council Website this gives a platform for publicizing the other year round visitor activity. Not much information is available on Masendu Village and the Votels. Besides the newsletter, there are no brochures that package the facility. Challenges: In terms of running the business, the centre is facing the challenge of lack of pricing knowledge especially on the meetings venue and services provided hence they are in need of capacity building in this area. Due to the low visitor patronage, the facilities have been turned into office and accommodation for various NGOs and Government agencies working in the area. During the survey, almost every roundavel was being rented out to service providers. There is generally lack of technical and managerial capacity to run the center efficiently. This was evidenced by the general state of disrepair of the water and power supply and other equipment on the center. The generator that was donated a few years ago has not been connected and is lying idle this is despite the erratic supply of electricity to the center. Future Prospects: There has been a relatively earnest investment in this center compared to other cultural centers in the country. The village has potential to be the main attraction in the district given its relatively good access roads, its centrality and the legacy that the center has as a preserve and interpretive center for the Kalanga culture. There are plans to repair the water and electricity supply and to restore the tourism utility value through removing the tenants and refurbishing the roundavels. The votels are a growing area of interest for the villagers and a number of homesteads have been earmarked for this type of
The Ndebele Cultural Village started operating in 1999.This village depicts the Ndebele way of life. Infrastructure: To date there are five huts which were constructed using local resources. It is in these huts where different aspects of the Ndebele culture are depicted. These include the Indulangama hut (Sangoma hut) and the dispense house for grinding traditional medicine. The village is in the process of constructing the reception centre. This was funded by funded by ORAP and it is about 90% complete. They are also expecting US$ 10,000 from the Culture Fund to build a museum for traditional artifacts.
Management of the facility: The facility operates under a registered Trust whose Board of Trustees oversees its management. The Trust operates a bank account. The establishment benefits 230 households and is run by a committee of 8 members (4 women and 4 men). The management committee is active although meetings are irregular. There are no formal employees at the center. The representatives of the management committee are responsible for the day to day running of the village including the supervision of the construction works underway.
Accommodation – camping on site is provided either in the grounds or in the gazebo, no bedding provided, and self catering. No safe water facilities for visitors’ overnight use.
Access – Access through Matobo National Park, road rugged, not well serviced. 2.5 hour drive from Bulawayo.
Amenities – limited development, public bath and toilet under construction, no visitor reception area or interpretive center; no piped water and power supply on the site, clinic is a distance, Attractions – Scenic drives, close to World Heritage sites, Ndebele crafts, rock paintings
Activities – Entertainment and catering services are provided by selected members of the local communities. Entertainment includes traditional dances by men and women, herbal medicine, sangoma clinic and nature walks to the caves. Children are also very actively involved in dancing.
Awareness – Limited publicity and marketing of the facility, communication is the greatest challenge. no network coverage of all cellular networks, poor accessibility, and lack of marketing skills for the product. There is limited information on the STEP website. As a result, visitors to the facility are very low. On average they receive 3 day visitors a month. This includes official visitors from Government and NGOs on familiarization visits. Main Challenges: The study noted a number of challenges facing this development. Although there is a set and agreed development plan, there has been no meaningful capital injection to implement the plan. The management has limited management and marketing skills although there are many opportunities to establish joint packages with tour operators to the World Heritage site. Communication is also a main challenge despite that a few cell network boosters have been erected within the vicinity of the facility. Future Prospects: The center is one of the few initiatives in the area and offers a diversity of exciting visitor experiences with great chances of day visits from the Park and the World Heritage Site. The centre intends to revamp its ablution, refurbish the huts, and build four bee hive huts as part of its growth. There is current construction work in progress although the pace is slow. To further enrich the product, the community recently discovered some rock paintings and caves nearby, about 3km from the cultural centre and this is likely to boost the facility’s product and activity portfolio.