Historical Bulawayo Tour

Historical Bulawayo


What’s In A Name?

Bulawayo DOES NOT mean “the place of slaughter” as is often reported. It is more correctly transcribed as “I am he who is persecuted and rejected”. This refers to King Lobengula’s personal suffering during the civil conflict that accompanied his assent to the throne.

More correctly koBuluwayo, it was often rendered Gubuluwayo by precolonial visitors. At first the colonial town was spelt Buluwayo. This was only changed by public notice on 4th March 1896 and accounts for the name of the City’s oldest company – The Buluwayo Board of Executors. It is not a spelling error.

One of its many African names, koNtuthuziyathunqa, alludes to the smoking towers of its once dominant industrial base. To many it is also known as “Skies” in reference to the blue, usually cloud-free firmament of our drought-prone situation.

The History of Bulawayo

Lying in southwest Zimbabwe, Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s second largest city. It has a proud history that dates back to precolonial days, while it was here that many of the most momentous events that have shaped the nation were played out.

From the day it was founded Bulawayo attracted migrants who transformed the dry veldt of western Zimbabwe into what was once a leading industrial heartland. They came from different backgrounds, but a strong sense of community emerged.

In Bulawayo a new identity was forged in the turmoil of ethnic, economic and political struggle. Here both white Rhodesian and black Zimbabwean nationalism found its roots.

Aerial Photo Of Bulawayo
Aerial photo of Bulawayo

The Bulawayo Tour - Walk and Drive

Join us as we explore the developing city, reflecting on the people who were there and the social conflicts of their era.

This combined walk and drive through the heritage centre of modern Zimbabwe provides an overview of the growth of the city, its amenities and some of the more notable heritage buildings of Bulawayo’s cityscape.

The “City of Kings” has a remarkable heritage and the ghosts of Kings Mzilikazi, Lobengula and Cecil John Rhodes are forever present.


Lobengula’s Buluwayo, capital of the Ndebele state, lay in the northern suburbs of the modern City. Now State House it is not accessible. However, we will get nearby to discuss the King and those who flocked to his capital.

Return then to the central areas, once home to several of the King’s wives. Here the white settlers founded their town in 1894. 

Three years later, in 1896, at the site of what is now the City Hall, various communities where thrown together in flight from the Ndebele who had risen up in rebellion against the new regime. It was within the “laager” that Rhodesian identity was forged; an identity that underlay the events of the next century. With the crushing of Ndebele resistance the town emerged as the country’s main economic and cultural centre, a position that Bulawayo held until the 1920s before losing out to the capital city of Salisbury/Harare.

Walking the streets of central Bulawayo we will consider this growth and decline.

Extended Tour of Bulawayo

This is usually a half day excursion, but for those with more time combine this with a trip to other heritage sites in the region, or extend it to visit and reflect on the city’s industrial sites and diverse residential suburbs from the gardened homes of the wealthier eastern suburbs to the former “African Townships”.

The latter are home to the bulk of the City’s population. 

We will visit several, noting the different social, economic and political evolution of each:

Makokoba the oldest non-white residential area which was at the centre of nascent African nationalism through Trade Unionism and sport – centred on the historical Stanley Hall, to Mzilikazi and the fight for equal representation by the growing Black Middle Class.

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  • Chapman Road
  • +263-772 126 963
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