Windhoek-Nestled between three mountains – Khomas High, Aus Mountain and Eros Mountain – stands the Heroes’ Acre monument, situated a few kilometres south of Windhoek city centre. When one first walks through the gates friendly soldiers who safeguard the monument greet you.
Acting site manager and site tour guide Helena Neugola welcomed New Era with a smile. The monument is situated on land measuring 174 hectares, which was donated by the City of Windhoek, and officially opened on August 26, 2002.
Under the National Heritage Council of Namibia the purpose of the monument is to “foster a spirit of patriotism and nationalism and to pass on the legacy to the future generations of Namibia”.
School tours and students from universities make up the majority of Namibian visitors, while the vast majority of daily visitors are international tourists predominantly from South Africa, Germany and Asia.
Guided tours are provided on request or one could simply just walk around the site. Peak times are during the month of May. There is a small fee of N$15 to access the site. “It is very disappointing to see that our Namibian people barely come,” said Helena.
As our tour started, we passed by a pond with a marble statue of a man and woman, with water continuously running down their heads, symbolising “the blood that waters our freedom”. A pavilion that can hold up to 5,000 people adorns the site, which was built from rocks sourced from the nearby mountains.
A well-kept gem of the site is the eternal flame that has been burning since the opening of the Heroes’ Acre monument in 2002. A total of 174 graves are found at the site, with 26 being real graves, while nine are symbolic.
The symbolic graves are a tombstone with a name and picture of heroes and heroines whose remains could not be buried physically, for example that of early anti-colonial fighters Hendrik Witbooi, Samuel Maharero, Kahimemua Nguvauva, and others.
One is allowed to take pictures during tours, but filming is frowned upon.
Family members of heroes and heroines buried at the site are allowed to visit their loved ones and enter the site free of charge. There are flowers and wreathes on the graves.
At the centre of the site one finds a symmetric polygon with a marble obelisk and a bronze statue of ‘The Unknown Soldier’. Behind the statue, one finds a panoramic mural that depicts the story of Namibia’s journey to independence.
With not many people coming to visit the site, assumptions are made about the building material, the state of the grounds and the identity of The Unknown Soldier that stands at the centre of the monument with a grenade held aloft.
The marble used to build the site was sourced from Karibib.
The Ministry of Works and Transport has the mandate of keeping Heroes Acre up to standard. Vandalism is unheard of due to the fact that there is 24-hour presence of soldiers.
Many believe that The Unknown Soldier is modeled on founding president Sam Nujoma is, but Helena explained that the soldier represents the gallant soldiers who fought in the struggle, but weren’t identified. Within the symmetric polygon one finds obtained from battlefields in Angola and Zambia.
This was the government’s way honouring those who lost their lives in battle and could not be identified.
Lieutenant-General Dimo Hamaambo, the late chief of the Namibian Defence Force, who served as the second commander of People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), was the first person to be buried at the site.
The site sports a beautiful restaurant with a breathtaking view of the mountains and the entire monument. According to Helena, it is rented out and run by a private individual. “That is a source of income for us to pay municipal bills.”
They provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, and their menu contains local and international dishes. Unfortunately, it is not doing so well due to the fact that there aren’t many visitors. It is sad to see foreigners moved by our history to the point of tears, and not our own people.
Helena urges fellow Namibians to come in numbers and take the time to learn, to explore and to enjoy a delicious meal. The site operates from 08h00 to 16h30 Monday to Saturday; and the restaurant is open daily from 08h00 to midnight.