It is often said that history repeats itself, and that we can learn from our past. There are some things in history worth repeating while others are better left in the annals of time. Swaziland is rich in antiquity, both happy and sad. To teach future generations, we must step back in time to a place that once saw life and vitality before hope was lost and an inevitable death slammed the door to the future.

The future Bulembu museum.

When the Havelock Mine was fully operational, the old cableway building was the epicenter of transportation of its most precious product. After Bulembu was deserted, it sat empty, collecting dust as the wind swept through, carrying with it whispers from memories past before there was nothing left save for a few relics.

Old hospital equipment and signboard.

But the cableway is coming back to life and will soon be a living, breathing entity once again, and a focal point in Bulembu. The cableway building is being turned into the Bulembu Museum and is scheduled to open within the next couple of months.

An autoclave that was used in the mining days to sterilize hospital theater equipment.

Once the old relics of the mining town have found their final resting place in the now retired cableway, guests, volunteers, tour teams and residents can step in and experience a bit of the precious and valued history that became the framework that has helped shape the town of Bulembu into what it is today.

Maps of the mine tunnels.

Bob, a museum curator from Swaziland is feverishly putting the finishing touches on this project. He says he will be taking advantage of the two stories of the building. The ground level will be the general history of Swaziland with geology describing “bushmen in general” and then “bushmen in Swaziland” before going on to black people coming into Southern Africa around 400 AD, the Ingunia people coming to Swaziland, then the white people coming to Swaziland, before finishing up about Bulembu specifically. There will also be information about the Boer war, colonialism, and the missionaries who came to Swaziland, moving from the 1920’s up to current time.

Clocks that were used to indicate shift times.

“We’ll keep the industrial look and feel of the cableway,” he explained. “We’ll also have a lot of old artifacts and photos around.”

The second level will be devoted entirely to Bulembu. It will explore everything about Bulembu’s history.

A large map of the mine.

Bulembu is on a mission to achieve self-sustainability. Its narrative, whether seen or heard, translates into the gamut of emotions, and achieving that mission requires the remembrance of the past as well as the emotion so the same mistakes are never repeated. The museum is sure to bring about an array of wonder, disgust, joy, pride, sadness, love, empathy, and much more to the human heart. It will also ensure the story of Bulembu will be told for generations to come so the whispers of the past never fade.

Old film projectors used back in the day.

By: Theresia Whitfield