It was an embarrassing misnomer for a country like ours, which fought a long, bitter liberation struggle to still have the symbols of that valiancy bearing the names of icons of the era which oppressed us.
We had the headquarters of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces named after a former British king, Albert Fredricks George. It was called King George VI, KG VI Barracks for short. Some of our distinguished liberation war stalwarts — Rex Nhongo, Vitalis Zvinavashe, Perrance Shiri, Josiah Tungamirai and Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga — worked from that military fort that was named after a person who symbolised an abhorrent system they fought and defeated in 1980.
Other barracks, while not named after British colonial luminaries, bore names that were not relevant enough to what they really are. They were not appropriate enough in putting across the significance and pride that a country like ours attaches to its armed struggle and military history.
We had Old Cranborne, HQ3 Brigade Barracks, HQ4 Brigade Barracks and Second Battalion. It is most surprising that we actually had one cantonment officially called the Royal Rhodesian Thornhill Airforce Base.
In our opinion, the names were grossly unsuitable, in other cases too lightweight for the weighty places they sought to identify.
However, we had no big problems with Andrew Louw School as it reminds us of Andrew Louw, the missionary who set up the first mission station of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in 1891 at Morgenster in Masvingo.
It is good that Government has fittingly renamed all army barracks after the country’s national military heroes. The changes were made in line with Section 89 of the Defence Act (Chapter: 02)
King George VI Barracks and Airforce headquarters is now known as the Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks while the Brady Barracks in Bulawayo is now called Mzilikazi Barracks.
Cranborne cantonment and old Cranborne cantonment are now known as Charles Gumbo and Kaguvi Barracks respectively. Karuyana Barracks has changed to Chitekedza Barracks and 3 Brigade has been renamed to Herbert Chitepo Barracks.
Chipinga cantonment is now known as William Ndangana Barracks while 4 Brigade Barracks has changed to Gava Musungwa Zvinavashe Barracks.
Second Battalion has changed to Masvingo Barracks and Gutu Barracks is now referred to as Chinomukutu Barracks.
Andrew Louw School is now called Sengwe Barracks while Stamford Dzivarasekwa has been renamed Dzivarasekwa Barracks.
Inkomo Camp has changed to Inkomo Barracks and Llewellin Barracks is now called Lookout Masuku Barracks.
The Zimbabwe Military Academy in Gweru has been renamed Solomon Mujuru Barracks while the Mutare cantonment is now known as the Charles Dauramanzi Barracks.
Inkomo Camp (Mounted regiment) is now called Amoth Norbert Chingombe Barracks and Battalion Battle School Headquarters and Battalion Battle Training Area are now called the Rekayi Tangwena Barracks.
Flyde Air Force Base is now called Jason Ziyapapa Moyo Air Force Base while the Royal Rhodesian Thornhill Airforce Base has changed to Josiah Tungamirai Air Force Base.
We agree with President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the renaming of institutions and places after the country’s national heroes is a way of exorcising the ghost of colonialism and preserving Zimbabwe’s history. He said this on Wednesday while officially renaming King George V1 Barracks to Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks.
“By so doing we rid ourselves of the colonial mentality which regards all that is associated with Europe and the West with high esteem while placing a low opinion on our own value systems,” he said.
“The renaming of our institutions after some of these leading African military strategists goes a long way towards preserving the nation’s history that we bequeath to future generations.”
General Tongogara commanded Zanla, the military wing of Zanu, during the liberation struggle. The National Defence University is now called Alfred Nikita Mangena, who commanded Zipra. Lookout Masuku succeeded Mangena as Zipra commander.
In every culture across the globe, a name is very important. It gives the bearer character, identity and dignity. It defines a people and gives them pride.
It is for these and more reasons why all newly independent states immediately came up with new, more appropriate names as soon as they attained independence. Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe, Salisbury is now Harare, Northern Rhodesia is now Zambia, Bechuanaland is now Botswana, and The Gold Coast is now Ghana.
The Milton Building in Harare was renamed Munhumutapa Building and it is where the office of the President of this country is. The new name is appropriate as it comes from the Munhumutapa Kingdom that, between 1430 and 1759, straddled all the territory that is now extending well into Zambia in the west and Mozambique in the east. The Earl Grey Building, named after an early chairman of the British South Africa Company that colonised our country was renamed Mukwati Building, after the First Chimurenga hero.
The name changes were necessary and made to signify a break from a painful and unwanted past. They signify a new future and hope.
The Government’s stance on the latest renaming round is therefore a good one and must be supported.
We suggest that all other strategic places that still have colonial names adopt new ones that reflect the new dispensation. Less strategic places and institutions might keep their old colonial names because we cannot obliterate all history, only that which is objectionable.