Nqobile Tshili Chronicle Correspondent
THE decision by the Bulawayo City Council to correct misspellings of some of its streets and suburbs has sparked debate among the city’s social analysts who argue that more needs to be done to create a local narrative and to redress colonial mistakes. The council in its recent report said it would shortly launch an exercise to correct the city’s misspelt suburbs and streets following a request by a resident, Khumbulani Maphosa.
Yesterday, social commentators welcomed the decision saying it was long overdue. However, they argued that council needs to go further and rename some of its buildings, suburbs and streets which still glorify colonialists.
The Chronicle yesterday spoke to King Mzilikazi’s descendent, Prince Zwide Khumalo, who said the renaming of buildings is crucial for identity purposes. He said the naming of buildings and places has a bearing on the preservation of a people’s history.
Khumalo said the council should not stop with misspelt suburbs and streets names but give relevance to historical names. “It’s so prudent to do so, particularly in the City of Kings. It’s not just about streets and suburbs but giving relevance to some of the existing names. Some of the suburbs such as Mzilikazi should be named King Mzilikazi suburb just like the school Queen Elizabeth which was named after the British Queen. Lobengula suburb should also be named King Lobengula suburb which befits his status” said Khumalo.
He said the city should aim to remain culturally relevant instead of just giving streets and suburbs new names with no cultural relevance. “Places should not be named for the sake of renaming them because if we do so, it will be retrogressive. This exercise should be done correctly to identify with the local people,” Khumalo said.
Playwright, Cont Mhlanga concurred saying names are a narrative and they tell a story about a people. He said a narrative that speaks to Bulawayo residents is missing in the local buildings.
“We’ve places like Tower Block and Babourfields Stadium which are meaningless to the local narrative. Names are there for creating and preserving an identity. Names are narratives and they should tell a local narrative. It is that narrative that becomes relevant a century later,” Mhlanga said.
He said Bulawayo was suffering from a serious colonial narrative which locals cannot identify with. “We have streets such as Fife Street, named after one of the Cecil Rhodes’ allies who formed the British South Africa Company. This is unacceptable,” said Mhlanga.
Bulawayo’s suburbs have a historical narrative with Mzilikazi being named after the King Mzilikazi and Njube after King Lobengula’s son. Emabutweni suburb was given the name to symbolise the Ndebele kingdom as a military state.