And here is the the first article of the series that I promised! I have titled it Nkompon’ Life. “Nkomponi” is our way of saying “compound,” which is what the kind of place I live in has been historically called. More on that later. This is the place that I grew up in. I hope you do not find it too boring. Please feel free to ask questions if I need to fill in some blanks. Let me know if you want pictures too!
In 1913, Premier Portland Cement opened a cement factory about 15 kilometers to the east of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. Rhode’s Pioneer Column had only arrived 23 years prior. Many of the factory workers were immigrants from Zambia and Malawi. In fact, it is said that the company’s first worker was one Kandale, who had emigrated from Zambia. (Kandale’s homestead is only a couple of kilometers from my home. Also, Kandale’s son, “Teacher Ndlovu,” was a teacher when I was a pupil at Cement Primary School). Since 1913, the company has also been owned by United Portland Cement (UPC), Anglo-American and Pretoria Portland Cement (current owner). Ownership by UPC in 1963 was essentially a merge with a Collen Bawn cement factory, which is located about 140 kilometers south east of Bulawayo.
The factory workers’ houses are situated right by the factory, just south of it. The factory itself sits in the middle of a light industrial/farming area, albeit an almost dead one. A kilometer or two to the east, there is Cold Storage Company, Clay Products, Pig Industry and Chibuku Breweries; just north, there is McDonald Bricks; and then there is shadowy Scotch Mine a couple of kilometers to the south; a few kilometers to the west lie the rusty ruins of Musimboti Chemicals. Beyond the firms to the north and east lie a number of large commercial farms.
There are other interesting places and features surrounding the factory. A few kilometers to the east is Fairbridge, a very large police camp. Several kilometers further east is Lliwellin Barracks, an army base. The most prominent physical feature is Ntabazinduna, a flat-topped hill on which Mzilikazi King of the Ndebele infamously executed some of his sons and chiefs around 1840. The river Umguza lies a couple of kilometers to the west. It is the name sake of the rural district administration under which the Bulawayo factory falls.
Yes, the factory falls under Umguza Rural District. Rural District. Is it rural? Well, the city is about 10 minutes away by car. Rural homesteads are about 10 minutes away on foot in the opposite direction. I am therefore not sure if it’s rural or not. But I am sure of this: I live in a village called Baghdad.
More on Baghdad next time.