The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Municipal Reporter
THE Government has warned local authorities that have not implemented a directive to effect new street name changes that they will soon face punishment.
District Development Coordinators have since been instructed to submit new names for buildings, schools and any amenities that still have colonial names so as to create a sense of national pride. Cabinet in November 2019 approved new names of roads, places and Government buildings in Harare, Bulawayo and other towns across the country, as a deliberate effort to foster unity, while reflecting on the country’s history and identity.
The name changes were mainly aimed at honouring the country’s national heroes, as well as nationalists from the region. Minister of Local Government and Public Works Cde July Moyo subsequently gazetted Statutory Instrument 167 of 2020 which effectively confirmed the Government proposed street names in the country, a development that saw a number of the nation’s heroes both living and dead being honoured.
However, most towns and cities- including Bulawayo- ignored the directive. For Bulawayo, councillors directly defied the central government when they endorsed a separate resolution for street name changes which ignored the street name changes that were effected by Cabinet. The councillors alleged that in terms of the Urban Councils Act, councillors have the powers to name, re-name, alter or change names of streets and buildings.
The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) also through their lawyers Job Sibanda and Associates, filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court challenging the Minister’s approval of street name changes as contained in S1 167/20 under Names (Alterations) (Amendment of Schedule) Notice. The matter is still pending in court.
However, in the latest development the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works, Mr Zvinechimwe Churu, last month wrote to all Provincial Development Coordinators instructing them to ensure that all local authorities under their jurisdiction implement the said name changes.
“It has come to my attention that some local authorities have not yet implemented the Gazetted change of names as contained in Statutory Instrument 167 of 2020, issued on 17 July 2020. Please check with your respective local authorities and ensure that the gazetted names are the ones that appear on signage and that the names are put into official and common use by all concerned,” read part of the letter dated 18 March 2021.
In Bulawayo, some of the major name changes include Sixth Avenue up to Sixth Avenue extension which becomes Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa Way (named after the President), Ninth Avenue becomes Simon Muzenda Avenue, 12th Avenue changes to Joseph Msika Avenue, eight Avenue becomes Liberation Legacy Avenue, fourth Avenue through to seventh Street up to King George Avenue changes to John Landa Nkomo Avenue and 10th Avenue will now be Nikita Mangena Avenue.
In Harare the name changes are Speke Avenue, which changes to Agostinho Neto Avenue, Angwa Street changes to Sir Seretse Khama Street, Third Street changes to Patrice Lumumba Street, Rezende Street changes to Julia Zvobgo Street, Selous Avenue changes to John Landa Nkomo Avenue, Cameron Street changes to Joseph Msika Street, while the stretch from Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to Manyame Air Base will now be called Josiah Tungamirai Drive, and Kirkman Drive is now known as Solomon Mujuru Drive.
Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni said while council appreciated the Government’s position on the matter, they can only implement the Statutory Instrument once the court processes have been completed.
“Obviously as a lower tier of Government, in a devolved state, it’s the duty of local authorities to support and implement central Government programmes in the interest of national diversity and cohesion. We are also alive to the interests and concerns of the local people we are governing. We are alive to the fact that there is a pending High Court challenge by residents who feel that they were not consulted.
Basically, council is between a rock and a hard surface. As council, we took legal advice and concluded that in the spirit of prudent use of public resources and respecting the subjudice rule; the logical thing was to await the outcome of the court process on the legal validity of the statutory instrument,” said Clr Mguni.
He said there was a council resolution to defer the implementation of the directive pending the final determination of the legal challenge by residents and stakeholders of Bulawayo. Meanwhile, in another communication, Mr Churu has instructed District Development Coordinators to submit 10 possible name changes in their districts that will replace colonial or anglicized names.
“The Cabinet Committee on Names (Alteration) would like to re-invigorate the changing of names in line with National Development Strategy 1 concepts of inclusivity and national heritage. It is believed replacing colonial or anglicized names will create a sense of national pride.
“I now require each district development coordinator to submit at least ten proposed name changes per district. The areas to be covered by the proposals should include road and street names, schools, colleges and training centres, health facilities, buildings, natural features and local place names,” said Mr Churu.
He said the DDC should ensure that justification is given to the proposed new names based on appropriate consultations at local level.
“It should be borne in mind that the Names (Alteration) Act requires that any non-government road, place, facility name change will require consultation with the person in whom ownership is vested,” reads part of the communication.