The government has said its decision to rename streets after national heroes and heroines in Bulawayo still stands and will soon be implemented.
This follows the ‘defiance’ by Bulawayo City Council (BCC), which set itself on a collision course with the central government after passing a resolution to rename the city’s major streets ignoring the government directive to the same effect.
In November last year, Cabinet unilaterally renamed some of the streets in the city, a decision which riled a cross-section of people who felt some of the country`s heroes and heroines from the region had not been properly honoured.
The city fathers also criticised the move arguing that they were not consulted as the custodians of the city.
Bulawayo Town Clerk Christopher Dube last month submitted the Council’s suggested names to government, highlighting the process of renaming was supposed to be a consultative one.
However, in his response, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, July Moyo, in a letter dated 11 March 2020, acknowledged receiving BCC’s submissions.
“I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated February 10, 2020,” said Moyo.
“We thank you for your input on the issue of streets’ renaming in Bulawayo. Please note that your comments will be presented to the Cabinet Committee on name change of street names being chaired by VP Mohadi.”
He added: “However, the ministry will proceed to implement the cabinet decision.”
Last week BCC met with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government led by Miriam Chikukwa, to discuss issues of service delivery in the city.
During the meeting, Chikukwa expressed concern over the response from Bulawayo following the cabinet’s announcement on new street names.
She said the conduct of BCC gave a perception that they were defying a government’s order.
Dube, however, clarified that BCC did not defy a government directive to change street names but followed the procedure as provided for in the Urban Councils Act which states that the renaming of streets is a consultative process.
He explained that the abrupt government announcement coincided with a motion which had been raised by Bulawayo councillors around the same time.
“When the government announced the street names it was around the same time when the council had raised a motion on the same issue. We were not aware that the government wanted to change street names. Like everyone else we only saw it in the media,” said Dube.
“We even got a call from the local government ministry asking if we were defying their orders. We clearly explained to them that this was a process which needs to be done in terms of the Urban Councils Act. The government made a proposal of the names and as the local authority we were supposed to respond through written submissions.”
The town clerk said they engaged in a telephone conversation with the local government officials and they submitted their suggestions but still awaited feedback.
“We also have since had a meeting with officials from Museums and Monuments but still no feedback has been brought. There is nothing amiss in our conduct neither are we defying a ministry directive but we only want a consultative process. Council did not alter the names of the suggested heroes, there were only a few changes which were made,” said Dube.
Chamber Secretary Sikhangele Zhou reiterated that there was nothing wrong in the conduct of the city council.
She said in cases where the ministry gives a directive, the local authority can act on the directive and raise their concerns formally.
Zhou said there have been instances before where the government has given directives and local authorities addressed their concerns and reservations over them.