The official dedication ceremony for the NEC (New Embassy Campus) was held on Thursday 2nd May. It was attended by the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Brian A. Nichols, his wife Ms Geri Kam, Mr Kenneth Wetzel the US Public Affairs Officer, Mr Tad Davis Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, Mr Mathew Kolinsky from B. L. Harbert the main contractor and project manager, and other dignitaries from the international diplomatic corps. The Zimbabwean delegation included the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Cain Mathema and the Mayor of Harare Mr Herbert Gomba. Local contractors, suppliers and service providers were also invited.
The ceremony was opened by Mr Kenneth Wetzel who went on to introduce local superstar Hope Masike who gave a beautiful rendition of the Zimbabwean national anthem accompanying herself on the mbira. Ms Masike is an alumni of the One Beat musical exchange programme sponsored by the United States. Incidentally the design of the canopy over the main entrance is said to have been inspired by the design of the traditional mbira.
This was followed by Mr Clinton Canady IV (General Services Officer) who sang the national anthem of the United States of America. A short video clip showed the ceremonial Lowering of the Flag at the former US Embassy on Herbert Chitepo Avenue and the Raising of the Flag at the new embassy campus.
Ambassador Nichols then addressed the assembly starting with his condolences for the victims of Cyclone Idai which claimed the lives of more than a thousand people in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. He also remarked that the following day, 3rd May, would be the US Foreign Services Day which commemorates US citizens who have lost their lives while serving overseas. He went on to ask for a moment’s silence to respect those who lost their lives.
Ambassador Nichols went on to say that, “great architecture enriches the people and society around it. The proud people of this land knew this truth a millennia ago when they laid the foundations of Great Zimbabwe, the land of kings, nearly 300 kilometres from here. And Great Zimbabwe served as the inspiration for this beautiful building.” He went on to say that the design of the NEC was also inspired by the geography of Zimbabwe with gently sloping terrain, vast areas of veld or grassland and extensive tree cover.
Ambassador Nichols remarked on the Art in Embassies programme which promotes local artists and artists from the United States. He thanked the City of Harare and Government officials who had provided support and assistance for the project. He also commented on mutual trade and investment between Zimbabwe and the USA and stressed that political and economic reform can be achieved through mutual dialogue. His final remarks were about World Press Freedom Day which would also fall on 3rd May this year and he congratulated the Financial Gazette on its 50th Anniversary.
Mr Tad Davis from the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations rounded off the ceremony thanking the Mayor and Mr Mathema as well the main contractors, project managers and architects. He re-iterated the NEC’s commitment to sustainable, ecofriendly construction models.The highlight of the dedication was the official cutting of the ribbon by the Ambassador, Mr Tad Davis, Minister Mathema and Mayor Gomba. Guest were then free to tour the American Centre library and multi-purpose meeting and convention rooms.
For more in depth information on the design of the NEC see Structure and Design issue 21.
-text by Michael Nott
-photos by Michele Fortmann