Bulawayo residents are unhappy with Cabinet’s decision to rename certain streets without consulting the council and have expressed outrage that local heroes continue to be ignored.
Cabinet announced Thursday that it would rename 6th Avenue in Bulawayo to Emmerson Mnangagwa Avenue.
It also proceeded to change 4th Avenue to John Landa Nkomo, 5th Avenue to Maria Msika, 9th Avenue to SV Muzenda, 10th Avenue to Nikita Mangena, 12th Avenue to Joseph Msika, Colebrander to Lookout Masuku and Fife Street to Queen Lozikeyi.
However, residents queried why no road was named after the late Dr Dumiso Dabengwa, who was a senior commander in the liberation struggle and contributed to the country’s development.
In an interview with CITE, Bulawayo mayor, Solomon Mguni, said council was the one with a mandate to change streets names and did not know about the proposed changes.
“No communication was forwarded to the council about such an effect and I wouldn’t know the justification or basis of this. We only heard the proposed changes from the press and social media,” he claimed.
“Maybe these are just proposals and the government is yet to confirm or write to us but as I speak we don’t know anything.”
The mayor said even the law classified that naming of roads and streets within council areas was the responsibility of local authorities.
“Approval from government is only sought when we want to name a road after a national hero. That is according to Section 212 of the Urban Councils Act. The procedures is a street subcommittee from council sits down, proposes a name change and reports to council. The request is then considered for approval.
“If the street name to be changed is to be a name of a hero, the council seeks approval from government. But if the change if just an ordinary name, the council will just name. This was what happened when we changed Main Street to Joshua Nkomo,” Mguni noted.
The mayor said government could only change names of highways and other structures that were not within the jurisdiction of local authorities.
Section 212 (1) of the Urban Councils Act reads: “The council may from time to time assign names to roads within the council area and cause the name of any road to be affixed to or pained on any house, building or other structure fronting upon any part of such road.”
Mbuso Fuzwayo from a pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu queried why the government sidelined local heroes who had attachments with communities.
“How do you exclude Dabengwa, Ackim Ndlovu? The people of Bulawayo are emotionally attached to Dabengwa, this is sad. The exercise was going to be a better consolation to us had they named a street or a stadium after him,” he said.
A high school teacher criticised government for prioritising “cosmetic glorification” when people were suffering.
“Why trivialise the role played by Lookout Masuku by hiding his name down in Colenbrander Avenue. What became of devolution when decisions are still made in Harare?” he said, adding “this was the same joke, government tried and failed in 2000, when it wanted to change school names.”
ZAPU National Spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa, said renaming 6th Avenue to Emmerson Mnangagwa was a painful joke to people of Bulawayo and Matabeleland.
“It’s like renaming a street in Israel after Adolf Hitler. Mnangagwa’s legacy in Bulawayo and Matabeleland is of Gukurahundi where tens of thousands were killed. We remember Mnangagwa for inciting hate during Gukurahundi but today a street is named after him and that is worrisome,” he reflected.
“ZAPU requested Fife Street to be named after Dumiso Dabengwa but that wasn’t granted because Dabengwa was ZPRA, considered a serious crime under the Zanu government. Our children will grow up, know the correct historical narrative and reverse all this nonsense.”
A social critic, Patrick Ndlovu said it was amazing that President Mnangagwa had several roads named after him.
“It’s telling that he is the only one living person there, meaning he does not trust people to honour him when he is gone. But then in the USSR they destalinised the state after Stalin’s death,” he said.
However, critical scholar, Khanyile Mlotshwa expressed a different view, saying it was worth noting that a Zanu PF government in Harare had managed to remember Masuku and Queen Lozikeyi.
“This is something work thinking about. We still demand the BCC to name Barbourfields Stadium to Lookout Masuku or Highlanders must build own stadium and name it after the icon and leave the city council with its Barbourfields,” he said.