BULAWAYO – The government has directed the City of Bulawayo to rename one of its roads in honour of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who will be President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s guest during the official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) later this month.
Kenyatta will officiate at the annual exhibition in the city on Friday, April 29.
A confidential council report seen by ZimLive.com shows that councillors and council officials expressed concern at the short notice, fearing that such a move could be legally challenged for lack of consultations with residents.
Ward 4 councillor Silas Chigora said the directive by local government minister July Moyo had a danger of “setting a wrong precedent that every president who officiates at ZITF should have a street named in their honour.”
“This is a matter of concern that has to be addressed before it becomes a tradition,” Chigora told a council meeting on March 22.
Concerns over the short notice given by the government came from mayor Solomon Mguni and his deputy Malandu Ncube, who are smarting from a recent court decision which overturned another government directive to rename over a dozen roads after 1970s independence war heroes, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The High Court said decisions such as renaming roads could not be taken without public consultations with residents.
The government had demanded that 6th Avenue be named after Mnangagwa, but the council later adopted a resolution that George Avenue instead, which connects Harare Road and 12th Avenue Extension (Old Esigodini Road), would carry Mnangagwa’s name.
The city maintains that it wants to keep the numbering system for Avenues.
The council report seen by ZimLive says after deliberations, councillors identified three roads which they could name after Kenyatta – including George Avenue which they had reserved for Mnangagwa.
The others are Hillside Road from 14th Avenue to Cecil Avenue and Banff Road to Hillside Dams.
Mnangagwa, the councillors decided, will now have 12th Avenue Extension (Old Esigodini Road) from Samuel Parirenyatwa Street to Cecil Avenue named after him.
Burnside Road from Cecil Avenue to Bulawayo Drive will be renamed Sir Garfield Todd Road, in honour of the liberal Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia – as the country was known then – between 1953 and 1958.
According to Moyo’s letter to the local authority, Kenyatta will also plant a tree during his visit and the city was requested to provide a location for the tree.
Moyo told mayor Mguni to “treat this matter with the urgency it deserves.”
Mnangagwa was in Kenya on a state visit early last month. He invited Kenyatta to be guest of honour at the ZITF – a charm offensive some analysts believe has political calculations.
Kenyatta is at the end of his presidency with Kenyans due to hold elections on August 9. Kenyatta has endorsed his former bitter rival Raila Odinga – an ally of Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa – to succeed him.
Political scientist Pedzisayi Ruhanya believes Mnangagwa is anxious to use Kenyatta to close a channel for political and financial support to Chamisa when Zimbabwe holds its own elections in 2023.
“If Odinga wins, it’s trouble for Mnangagwa,” Ruhanya said. “He probably wants to use Kenyatta to have some leverage over Odinga. A long shot, but he is trying it anyway.”