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Face of Gweru, the iconic Boggie Tower stands test of time

By Patrick Chitumba

Situated at the intersection of Main Street and Robert Mugabe Way in Gweru is a clock tower popularly known as the Boggie Tower by the city’s residents.

Boggie Tower near the Midlands Hotel in Gweru. The clock tower was erected in 1937 by Jeannie, the widow of Major William James Boggie in memory of her late husband.
Boggie Tower near the Midlands Hotel in Gweru. The clock tower was erected in 1937 by Jeannie, the widow of Major William James Boggie in memory of her late husband.

When it comes to learning about the history of a new destination, travellers look for iconic buildings in that place and the Boggie Tower is one such iconic building.

The tower is viewed by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) as one of the Midlands’ capital’s tourist attractions.
The tower is also a place where some business people in Gweru perform rituals, often around midnight. It is said they pour oil or sprinkle different types of other liquids around the tower.

Research shows that the clock tower was erected in 1937 by Jeannie, the widow of Major William James Boggie in memory of her late husband. The Major, who was once the MP for the Midlands area in the Rhodesian parliament, is best remembered for having put forward the original Bill for the establishment of Hwange Game Reserve. One of Africa’s largest wildlife sanctuaries, Hwange National Park is among the top foreign currency earners in the tourism sector.

During construction of the structure, Jeannie, who did not want to visit other washrooms in town, had an underground toilet built a stone’s throw away from the tower.

Traffic accidents later became the order of the day, but councillors ruled that they had been the result of negligence and drunkenness on the part of the drivers. However, heavy vehicles were re-routed to Lobengula Avenue, the next street.

Today, the facility is used by members of the public, but at a cost. The fee is for purposes of maintaining and keeping it clean.

History has it that as the time ticked on, residents at the nearby Midlands Hotel, formerly the Horseshoe Hotel, complained that the clock, which loudly rang eleven times at 11pm and twelve times at midnight was disturbing their peace. The expensive London imported clock had the Westminster chimes silenced for good by the local authority.

Many people probably think the tower was built for a design purpose. It stands there as one of our few attractive features in the central-business-district. Another clock tower is found at the council building and both these have stopped ticking – and it’s been a while – but it seems everyone is too busy to notice.

The Boggie which has a green coat is nothing short of beautiful. Council recently repainted it to bring it back to life after years of neglect. It was turning into an eyesore as show promoters took advantage of its centrality to paste their posters advertising shows that would happen in Gweru. Unfortunately, the clock itself is no longer functional as council is failing to get repairs for it.

Gweru Mayor Councilor Josiah Makombe said the Boggie Tower is a very important monument to the City of Gweru.

“It’s one of the monuments we’d like to keep in the city. Because of the unavailability of spares for the clock, we’re not able to repair the watch. That is the same challenge we have with the clock at the Town House. It’s not working also.

“However, we’ve repainted the Boggie Tower and we’re trying to look after the tower so that at least it will shape the history of the city,” said Clr Makombe.

He said they have since identified some people who used to correct the clock’s time as well as fixing it hoping that they can repair the clock.

Clr Makombe said when the clock used to work, people walking along Main Street and Robert Mugabe Way would just look up at the clock to check the time.

On the myth surrounding the clock that it is being used for rituals by businesspeople, he said he was not aware.

“That remains a myth. Maybe they used to do it many years ago, but I haven’t seen anyone or heard of any sacrifices that take place there of late,” said Clr Makombe.

However, an 88-year-old man, Mike D’souza from Mtapa suburb said an Indian businessperson that he worked for in the early 80s once told him that he used to go to the tower in the middle of the night to perform rituals.

“I used to work for this businessman, an Indian, and he’d tell me that once a year, he’d find time to go and sacrifice at the Boggie Tower. He would leave coins there which had value.

“From back then, a lot of people go there for pictures during the day and sacrifices at night. It’s happening,” he said.
The ZTA area manager for Gweru, Lizzie Adams said the Boggie Clock is a historical monument which is very important to Gweru’s tourism.

“We use it in our promotional material for Gweru/Midlands and a recent example is the ZimBho campaign that we did with Ray Vines. We can’t talk of attractions in Gweru without mentioning this beautiful tower,” she said.

Myth or no myth, rituals or not, the Boggie Tower stands out as a historical monument and attraction for Gweru. The Chronicle

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