fleur-tiny      EXPAT '72, 1st - 12th Sept 1972 

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APRIL / MAY 1973

1.Most of us have been to Zimbabwe and pondered over the mysteries of those ruins and the lesser complexes of related ruins dotted across the country, but it is also fascinating to consider the natural lines of communication between Zimbabwe and the outside world. A fairly straightforward route which there is good reason to believe was indeed used by the ancients is south-east along the Mtilikwe river, then via the Lundi valley to the Sabi which joins the sea a little distance south of Sofala.

2.It is certain that gold was shipped from Sofala to Arabia in early times. In 1505 when the Portuguese commander Pedro de Nhaya occupied Sofala in the name of his King, he found two dhows in its harbour laden with gold. Legend has it that dhows sailed up the Sabi as far as the present day Rhodesia/Mozambique border. The late Mr. Murray MacDougal, our sugar pioneer, claimed to have seen a ring-bolt affixed to an ancient wharf on a lonely reach of the Sabi.

3, No-one knows with certainty just who the ancients were but it is possible that they were Sabeans, or their seafaring friends the Phoenicians. The word Sabi itself and similar place names such as Rusape, the Musapa Gap in the Chimanimani (the old slave-trail to the coast) may well stem from a Sabean association,

4.An air of of mystery has surrounded the south-eastern corner of Rhodesia since the earliest times of European occupation. This is partly due to the fact that prior to 1954 when the South east Railway was built and which skirt this area, very few people indeed found any cause or good reason to go there. A few rugged individuals ventured into its fastnesses, MacDougal, the sugar pioneer, we have already mentioned, Dedman, famous manager of the Nuanetsi Ranch, who shot 300 lions during his stay there, was a later authority. As might be expected, the most comprehensive knowledge is that garnered over the years by officials of the Department of Internal Affairs whose patrols traverse the whole of the District in their visits to the kraals of the Ba Hlengwe, northenmost of the four clans which comprise the Shangana Tonga nation. Although the tribe lives predominantly in Mozambique, scattered elements are to be found within Rhodesia.

5.In 1954 the reconnaisance party sent out to do an initial survey for a Railway line which would link up with the line reaching northwards from Lourenco Marques encountered an unusual circumstance. The local Africans they employed refused to proceed eastwards from Chikombedzi unless accompanied at all times by one of the surveyors. It was a place of evil spirits and they had no wish to suffer their wrath by disturbing them.

6.In 1956 the writer first met the late J. Blake Thompson. This extraordinary old gentleman was then stationed at Marumbini, a place marked on good maps near the confluence of the Lundi and Sabi rivers. His lonely home was situated on a slight rise overlooking the river. Although his official role was to recruit Shangaans for the Shabani Mine, he had a number of selfimposed tasks such as acting as a doctor, as a locust officer, a meteorologist and, above all, a faithful recorder of the many strange stories told him by Africans. The African is not given to disclosing things from the past, but as a patient recuperating from an illness cured by a kindly old white man who already knew a great deal anyway, a few fragments of meagre history was not a great price to pay.

7.I think it was in this way he first came to hear of the "White City". This is a persistent legend about a ruined place in the Zimbabwe tradition, the exact whereabouts of which are either unknown or unrevealed. One African informant said it was a place that had fallen down over a cliff into a deep river pool. This immediately suggests the so-called Clarendon cliffs, a twenty kilometre long feature along the Lundi's southern bank and ranging from 15 to 200 metres in height. This fragment coincides with information gleaned by Mr. Roger Howman, former Deputy Secretary of Internal Affairs, while in the area in 1939/40. Mr. Howman's father had been there in 1905 and he also heard tales of "white ruins". A person who has flown over the area and walked many long miles across it is Mr. Allan Wright who was District Commissioner, Nuanetsi, for some twelve years and in his opinion the riverine forest of the Lundi, at the base of the Clarendon Cliffs, would be worth a systematic search.

8.This is the task which awaits a selected group of Rhodesian Scouts during April/May 1973. Entering the area via the Gona re Zhou Game Reserve, a careful search will be carried out both above and below the Clarendon cliffs and on the nearby mountain of Nyamatongwe. The ancients could not go too far away from permanent water. Sailing up the Sabi from the sea, these would have been the first features of consequence seen by them and an ideal spot on which to establish a lonely citadel, gateway to a rich hinterland.

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Acknowledgements:- With thanks to "Rocky" Hudson Felgate (G.S.L. of 11th Riverside Scout Troop) - who all those years ago, thoughtfully and carefully filed these unique notes away for safe keeping.