All colonial names must go

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IF we have any criticism to the recent wholesale renaming of roads and buildings, it is that the positive action has taken too long to be effected.

But we are afraid it is still not enough.

It is now 39 years into our hard-won independence. 

1980 is when we should have rid our country of this colonial legacy.

White settlers made it a point that names of major roads, towns, buildings, suburbs and sites would be used as a way of identifying the country with the colonialists.

It is a given that names are a major means of identification.

Names of our roads, streets, buildings, sites and even schools almost make one believe this is still a British colony

We have names like Cecil House, Thomlison Depot, Ambassador House, Pennefather Avenue and Rotten Row, among other such strange names.

And yet there are names associated with our liberation struggle like Joseph Msika, Solomon Mujuru, Mayor Urimbo, Edson Zvobgo and Ruth Chinamano, among others.

There are even other names which can be given to places which remind us of regional or world leaders who have identified with our cause.

We know our colonisers believed in the impact of names in mental colonisation.

That is why Christianity played a critical role in the colonisation of the people’s minds.

As Christianity was introduced, indigenous names were deemed unsuitable for ‘civilised children of God’.

People with vernacular names like Chido, Chenzira, Musanete, Maidei or Nhamo quickly rejected them and were baptised William, Pretty, Kennedy, Mary and Elizabeth, among other such exotic names.

This was an effective way of not only making the colonised blacks appreciate English names but also English values.

It looks like, even today, there is much pride among some of us in living in suburbs with colonial names like Mabelreign, Belgravia and Borrodale, among others.

This explains why some suburbs built well after independence still bear colonial names.

Suburbs like Selborne Park, Westlea and Borrowdale Brooke are among some of the recent suburbs christened so by blacks. 

It is unfortunate that it does not only end with names, but there is a concerted effort in these locations to promote Western cultures and values.

Our traditional culture and values are now considered primitive.

Surely vernacular names, like they did in Mufakose, where streets are named after names of indigenous trees make a lot of sense.

On their part, the colonialists were very clear about their mission.

That is why they didn’t like to respect names of towns which retained vernacular names.  

They would rather accept corrupted pronunciation of towns like Gatooma, Marandellas, Umtali, Gwelo and Inyanga as the correct version.

Thank heavens this was quickly corrected at independence.

There was an outcry from certain sections of our community when the latest name changes were proposed.

To them, names that are not English, especially those in vernacular, are considered anachronistic.

But this should be no hinderance to the renaming process.

Today, who bothers to remember that Samuel Parirenyatwa Hospital was once Andrew Fleming Hospital.

We wonder how many remember Mukwati Building once bore the exotic name of Earl Grey Building.

Ridding the country of these exotic names should be done without fear or apologies.

This process has to be far reaching and must cover names of schools, sites, hotels and all places that still bear colonial names. 

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