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FILE PHOTO: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks at a media conference at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo


Renaming roads fails to convince Zimbabweans



A BID to rename major roads in the country after President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some fallen heroes seems to have failed to resonate with Zimbabweans as they are still using old names, while in some cases, residents have even taken the government to court over the issue.

In 2019, the government mooted the idea of naming at least 10 major roads across the country after Mnangagwa.

Through Statutory Instrument 167 of 2020, Local Government minister July Moyo ordered municipalities in Bulawayo, Harare, Chipinge, Gweru, Masvingo, Bindura, Chegutu, Kwekwe, Mutare to name some of the roads after Mnangagwa and several other stalwarts.

The then acting Information minister Mangaliso Ndlovu in November 2019 said the government was renaming roads with immediate effect, adding that there was nothing wrong with naming streets after a sitting president.

“When you look at the names that we have come up with, they are all speaking to our history, to our values and pretty much that is the reason why we thought it was important to take this route,” Ndlovu said.

“In terms of naming streets and any building after the President, in terms of our constitution, he is the only person who can have a street named after him while he is still alive, and this is not the first time we have seen this obtaining. We have seen it under the former president.”

However, in April this year Mnangagwa’s bid to have 6th Avenue in Bulawayo named after him hit  a snag after the High Court blocked the move.

Last year, minister Moyo ordered the Bulawayo City Council to rename some streets in honour of living and departed liberation war stalwarts.

Bulawayo’s 6th Avenue had been renamed Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa Way.

But the Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association challenged the directive in court, arguing that ratepayers were not consulted as the city’s key stakeholders. Justice Maxwell Takuva denied the President the honour after agreeing with the residents’ association that it was unlawful for the government to impose street names on the local authority without consultation.

“To the extent that Statutory Instrument 167/20 purports to alter and substitute certain names as depicted therein, in Bulawayo the same is null and void and of no legal effect whatsoever for violating section 4(2) of the Alteration of Names Act Chapter 10:14,” Justice Takuva ruled.

Under the rejected directive, the government had also changed 9th Avenue to Simon Muzenda Avenue, 8th Avenue to Liberation Legacy Avenue while 12th Avenue was to become Joseph Msika Avenue.

Bulawayo’s 4th Avenue was to be renamed after the late former Vice-President John Landa Nkomo, 5th Avenue to Maria Msika Avenue, 1st Avenue to Lazarus Nkala Avenue, 10th Avenue would be known as Nikita Mangena Avenue, 3rd Avenue as Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu Avenue whereas 11th Avenue would be Daniel Madzimbamuto Avenue.

Speaking to The NewsHawks, historian and academic Takavafira Zhou said that after Independence the renaming of the roads gained traction because it was a credible move then. He said given the economic hardships and the government’s failure to address the plethora of problems bedeviling the country, changing city roads was not a priority.  

“The renaming of roads gained traction at Independence when there was greater need to reverse colonial injustice and quest to acknowledge some of our liberation icons in Zimbabwe. It was certainly credible and enjoyed great support from the Zimbabwean populace, as it resonated with the liberation struggle,” Zhou said in an interview.

He explained that under the present circumstances the move was not going to gain traction.

“However, clinging to renaming streets 37 and 41 years after Independence is not a key priority to Zimbabweans wallowing in poverty and misery. Its main purpose now is self-aggrandisement and reward of predatory leaders whose contribution to the liberation legacy is insignificant. It is noteworthy that the liberation legacy’s pre-occupation was not merely liberating Zimbabwe but also entrenching participatory democracy and improvement of the livelihoods of Zimbabweans. As such, the current poverty and misery in Zimbabwe seem to indicate what Andrew Astrow called ‘a liberation struggle that lost its way’.”

Zhou added that Mnangagwa’s chequered past was not helping matters.

“Above all, Mnangagwa is accused of playing a key role in the decimation of 20 000 innocent civilians in Midlands and Matabeleland together with the late Perrance Shiri under the tutelage of RG Mugabe. As such, many people in Matabeleland view the naming of roads after him as an insult. The honest truth is that there was so much hope that Mnangagwa would usher in better governance than Mugabe after the 2017 coup by focusing on the improvement of the livelihoods of Zimbabweans, re-kitting our industries, producing and ensuring a balance between exports and imports. However, we seem to have replaced the driver with his conductor with the same mantra of majoring on rhetoric than practical service delivery. It is within this context that resistance to renaming of streets for political expediency must be fully comprehended,” Zhou said.

MDC Alliance secretary for local governance Sesel Zvidzai said the issue failed to take off, as it was done without consultation.

“It failed because it’s not a product of consultation with the people. In any case, what’s so special about ED to cause people to change street names into his? His association with violence, grabbing power through a coup and driving the country down the spiral of poverty are all things that people are angry about and would rather not be reminded about each time they walk that street.There is simply no mark he has left or printing for him to deserve the honour of having a street named after him,” he said.

He said compared to Mnangagwa, Mugabe was a saint.

“Mugabe had a great start to the throne, stamped a lot due to an appetite for absolute power, leading to the murderous periods of Gukurahundi and killings of opposition members when the MDC arrived on the scene. However, he attempted to put a human face to power. The current dispensation projects Mugabe as a saint. Moreover, his sad ending through a coup and the continued shenanigans around exhumation of his body casts a bad picture of ED and loads a victim tag on Mugabe. This invites sympathy,” Zvidzai said. — STAFF WRITER.

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