By 2008, the hotel was about to be demolished. Due to the challenges faced by the hotel, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, which oversees the hospitality industry in the country, withdrew its three star recognition. However, after much protest, it was spared. The hotel is currently owned by Patrick Kombayi, a prominent Gweru businessman, ex-mayor, and politician known for his highly publicised criticism of the current government.
As a result of improvements, The Midlands Hotel clinched second position in the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce’s Best Business enterprise of the year for 2011. The hotel has established adjacent bars to cater for the needs of locals and clients from outside the city including a state-of-the art Casino in a separate bar, while those who enjoy sports can watch it live in the sports bar.
Used by permission, Congregational Library & Archives
The American Board Mission (ABM or American Board) opened its first mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1893. Two years earlier, ABM missionaries Rev. Wilcox and Dr. W.L. Thompson were on an exploratory trip from South Africa. As fate would have it, on the boat to Beira, Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), fellow passenger Cecil Rhodes overheard them talking about a site for a mission. He responded by giving them a track of land on Zimbabwe’s eastern boarder. On subsequent arrival to the designated area, the missionaries mistook the native African enunciation of the Chirinda forest as Silinda and called the mission site the Mount Silinda (Selinda) Mission.
“[W]e soon realized that the Mission was located in a U-shaped clearing which was surrounded by those soaring trees of mahogany… They covered Mt. Silinda to the south and Gungunyana to the north, and the bottom of the U to the West. But the U opened to the East upon a great view of the Zona valley, through which ran a small stream, which had its origin in the forest. … The Mission buildings were distributed on the grassy hillsides of the U clearing or opening. The road running down through the U to the school buildings in the center, and eventually the beautiful brick church. … It was a fair-sized self-contained community.”
A significant early contribution of the American Board in Zimbabwe was establishing medical facilities and providing medical care to the surrounding area.In 1912, the dispensary became a full-fledged hospital, “Willis F. Pierce Memorial Hospital” (Mt. Selinda Hospital).
Another contribution was in the area of agriculture. Emory D. Alvord, a trained agriculturist, joined Mt. Silinda in 1919 and introduced western farming practices including use of fertilizers and irrigation schemes. In 1926, he left the mission to take up the position of Director of Native Agriculture for Southern Rhodesian.
Mail service to Mt. Selinda was initially every two weeks by postal runner to Melsetter (letters prior to 1924 often have a Melsetter a back stamp). A branch post between Melsetter and Mount Selinda was established in 1897. That same year Dr. Thompson, who had been appointed postal agent, received the first Mount Selinda date stamp canceler. It incorrectly spelled Silinda – “Selinda,” and despite protests from Dr. Thompson, subsequent cancelers continued to use both spellings. In time, “Selinda” became the dominant spelling. Motorized mail service began in 1929.
Today, under the direction of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ), Mt. Selinda comprises a church, primary and secondary schools with boarding facilities for boys and girls (Mount Selinda High School), farm, the Daisy Dube Children’s Home and the Willis F. Pierce Memorial (Mount Selinda) Hospital.
Rev. and Mrs. Wilder of the American Board Mission (American Board or ABM) opened Chikore Mission in 1895. Chikore is located in Manicaland Province, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), 18 miles northwest of its sister mission station at Mount Silinda (Selinda). Chikore initially consisted of three farms on a total 18,000 acres on which were located eleven kraals (small villages) and a small school.
Dr. William T. Lawrence joined Rev. and Mrs. George Wilder at Chikore in 1900. Dr. Lawrence soon opened up a small hospital there and would go on to serve in Zimbabwe for the next 46 years. A Secondary School was opened at Chikore In 1955.
Before 1927, letters to or from the Chikore Mission were generally mailed through Mt. Selinda. A post office was established in the small village of Craigmore, a little over a mile from the Chikore Mission, in 1927. Thereafter, missionary mail was generally posted at Craigmore, with service by runner from Chipinga (24 miles away).
In the 1960s and 1970s, missionaries from the American Board (now known as the United Church of Christ – UCC) promoted racial integration of education and hospital services and many publicly opposed the policy of apartheid. This resulted in the deportation of three UCC missionary families in the 1960s. One of those families was Rev. and Mrs. Abbott (at the time Chikore Mission school superintendent) who were deported in 1966.
“One source of trouble for the school and mission station at Chikore where Mr. Abbott and his family were located, was the racial integration of the entire establishment. Chikore had six missionary teachers and 18 Africans. The secondary school program was headed by an African and was “integrated as much as possible.” This didn’t sit well with the European community at Chipinga, 25 miles away, he explained. “They didn’t like the secondary school because they felt we were educating the Africans beyond their abilities.”.
Today – The United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ) operates a school and 50-bed hospital at Chikore serving a remote area of Zimbabwe consisting of 44 villages.
Cecil Hotel was originally opened c.1890. In 1897 a new building was erected (as above) by Mssrs Snodgrass and Mitchell in preparation for the railway. The first Cecil Taxi, a 1929 Dodge, was used solely to go from the Cecil Hotel to the railway station and back. The hotel eventually became part of Miekle’s Associated Hotels.
In the 1950’s a third version of the hotel was built and in November, 1974, at a cost of $1.7m.
Meikle’s Hotel was established in 1915. It was the brainchild of Thomas Meikles who envisioned a commitment to the “highest possible standard of service and product” – something that has become enshrined in the Meikles culture.
Charles Duly, a fully qualified engineer of 24 years of age, cycled from Johannesburg, arriving in Bulawayo in 1894. By 1896, he had opened as a Bicycle Dealer in Abercorn St (now the site of the Carlton Hotel). In 1902, he imported the first car into Rhodesia and by 1911 the Company was appointed as a “Dealer” for Ford Motor Product in what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia.
Ford Motor Company established an assembly plant in Salisbury for the supply of vehicles to Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia using the Duly Motors Network in both countries. The assembly plant was taken over by the Industrial Development Corporation when Ford Motor Company withdrew from the country after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. The Plant is the present day Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries.
In 1980, Duly’s re-established ties with the Ford Motor Company, dealing in motor vehicles, tractors, combine harvesters and other agricultural equipment. However in the latter part of the 1990’s Ford decided to dispose of its agricultural operations worldwide to Fiat of Italy. Locally, Duly’s in turn sold its agricultural division to William Bain & Co Ltd who represented Fiat.
Line construction began in September 1892.The Bulawayo line was completed in October 1897 and the Mutare line in February 1898. The link between Salisbury and Bulawayo was finally completed in October 1902 after initial construction was brought to a halt by the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in October 1899, when materials had to be brought in on the Beira line.
The next stage was the line northwards from Bulawayo, which began in 1903, crossed the
Zambezi River at Victoria Falls in September 1905 and reached the Congo border in December 1909.
For several years this whole system was operated by the Mashonaland Railway Company under the title Beira and Mashonaland and Rhodesia Railways, but on 1 October 1927 Rhodesia Railways Company became the working company.
On 1 October 1936 Rhodesia Railways Limited became the owners of the whole railway system in Zimbabwe and Zambia as well as the Vryburg-Bulawayo section.
On 1 April 1947 the then Rhodesian Government acquired the assets of Rhodesia Railways Limited and on 1 November 1949 the undertaking became a statutory body known as Rhodesia Railways. On 1 July 1967 the system was divided at the Victoria Falls bridge, with Zambia Railways in the north and Rhodesia Railways in the south.
The Rhodesia Railways was re-designated Zimbabwe Rhodesia Railways on 1st June, 1979 and finally National Railways of Zimbabwe on 1st May, 1980 soon after the attainment of national Independence.