The National Heroes Acre is Zimbabwe's national shrine where national heroes are buried. It was established in 1980 soon after independence. The area was located on the western side of Harare in the Warren Park suburb. The National Stadium was then built nearby.
The National Heroes Acre was established in 1980 with the purpose of honouring Zimbabweans who died within and outside the country whilst fighting for the country independence from the minority rule of Ian Smith and the Rhodesian Front. Independence came about through a long and arduous struggle, that resulted in the Lancaster House constitutional conference in December 1979.
Symbolism and Meaning
It is seen from most parts of the city, towering above the seen structures of the surrounding suburbs. Like a fortress, it symbolises Zimbabwe's liberation struggle for independence. It is also a place associated with the both the First and Second Chimurenga wars of independence. The place symbolises the country's liberation history or the history of nationalism dating back to the 1960s.
Shrines have also been built in honour of fallen heroes across the country where declared heroes are interred. These heroes laid down their lives for Zimbabwe to be free. They subordinated their personal interests to the collective interest of Zimbabwe as the whole. They cherished qualities such as loyalty, dedication and patriotism. All heroes’ acres are administered by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.
Conferment of hero status is a great honour. 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 are buried at the provincial heroes acres while the later are buried at district shrines if their families agree.
The tomb of the unknown soldier symbolises those who died for the cause of the struggle. This section is one of the most respected ones because it carries the very essence of the liberations struggle.
There is also a national museum located within the National Heroes Acre. It is basically a repository of Zimbabwean history which is is displayed in the form of drawings, pictures, artwork and written word. The museum, by and large, contains the history of the Second Chimurenga in Zimbabwe. The place is administered by the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe.
There is a general belief that the heroes acre has often been used as a platform to garner political support by the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) party led by Robert Mugabe. It has been a place for only Zanu PF loyalists. Opposition politicians such as Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change has on several occasions grieved the partisan approach used by Zanu PF in choosing national heroes.