DURING the war, the comrades realised the need to educate the masses.
That is why last week I highlighted the importance of the pungwe approach in fighting Zimbabwe’s ‘cold war’ with the West.
My experience with two youths who had asked for a lift prompted me to write this piece focussing on place names.
I had given the two a lift.
One of them then said he wanted to be dropped off at Basset Farm.
And so we got into discussing about farm names.
Who was the owner of Basset Farm, I asked the two youths?
Basset, it turned out, was the former owner of the farm now allocated to several A2 model farmers.
Did the youths think the farm should continue to be called Basset Farm?
They were non-committal.
Did it matter what name was used for the farm?
I pointed out that the black farmers needed to stake their ownership by giving their new farms appropriate names the same way we Africans had renamed Rhodesia to be Zimbabwe and Salisbury to be Harare.
We were revisiting a topic I have previously discussed in this paper.
I pointed out that the whiteman had stamped his authority and ownership claims on various areas in our country by giving them European names.
Where the whites could not think of an appropriate name, they had Anglicised the local name just to make sure it was different from the previous African one.
An English name ensured their ancestral spirits would come to settle at the designated place and protect the investments.
For example, Marondera became ‘Marandellas’ and Mvurwi was renamed ‘Umvukwes’.
In a few cases, those whites who had come to appreciate the link between the spiritual and the physical world of Africa gave African names to their farms.
A good example was a Raffingora white farmer who called his farm ‘Mutendamambo’ meaning ‘thankful to the King or Chief’.
I understand he was seeking to be at peace with the local ancestral spirits and performed many African ceremonies such as rain-making.
Other farm names are ‘Katawa’ and ‘Chiwe’ named after local hills.
Many of the farms were given the white family names or named after places in Britain where the white farm owners originated.
One white farmer, H.W. Smith, who was briefly in Government at independence in 1980, named his farm ‘Little England’.
It is located just after Nyavira on the Chirundu Road.
The letters ‘LE’ still stand at the old farm entrance.
I told the two youths that to show gratitude to the Pioneer Column members and other white robbers who fought to dispossess the blacks of their land, the white colonisers named many schools after their white compatriots.
Starting with the royal family, we have school names like Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward, Churchill, David Livingstone, Admiral Tait, Blakiston, Jameson, Roosevelt, Allan Wilson and Cecil Rhodes, to name just a few.
All the people whose names were given to schools and other institutions are considered to be ‘heroes’ by our erstwhile colonisers.
Strangely, virtually all these former all-white schools have retained their old names.
This is despite that they are now 100 percent black with black headmasters, teachers, pupils and staff.
I pointed out that this was a contradiction.
How do the black children whose parents and grandparents were victims of colonial oppression by whites relate to the white ‘heroes’ whose names adorn their schools?
I understand many of the pupils and parents even consider themselves to be superior to those in traditional African schools!
Tragic inferiority complex indeed!
Will those black children at Allan Wilson School in Harare today proudly shout the slogan ‘We are men of men!’ in praise of the murderous members of that notorious patrol that killed so many Ndebele warriors before it was cornered and wiped out at the flooded Shangani River?
This was the conversation I was having about farm names, bemoaning that many resettled black farmers continued to call their farms by the names that were given by their former white owners.
I pointed out there was unlikely to be any meaningful production on these farms until the black farmers took full charge, including re-naming the farms to reflect black ownership.
What, if any, meaningful development do we expect in white peoples’ organisations and farms that blacks have occupied, but continue to call by their white names, refusing to take charge or stand up and be counted as the new owners?
There are places and organisations that blacks have moved into, but have retained their white European names in the hope that that will bring success or retain real estate value maybe?
Without black sweat and ingenuity?
Just the names?
Like Westlea in Harare or Westview in Glendale or any other place with a white name that you know?
Or am I the one who is missing the point?
Can a European name prop up property values even if the place is dilapidated?
Or can a company with a European name, but producing poor quality products still sell them on the back of the name?
Come on Zimbos, be yourselves!
Did colonisation cut that deep?
Do we prop up our images as human beings by living in suburbs with European names, sending our children to schools with English names and indeed retaining as many facets of white people’s manners as possible?
Where is our black pride?
In America white people actually complain that Nigerians are extremely proud people and they carry it with them,
Back to my conversation with those two youths.
One of them asked what farm names had to do with agricultural production.
I said names signify ownership of a resource.
I also explained that as Africans our existence has a spiritual dimension.
Our link to Musikavanhu, God, is through our ancestral spirits who literally stand as guardians over us.
They identify us through our personal and place names.
I said the same was true of Europeans who will even remove indigenous vegetation and plant exotic trees from their home countries to create the right ambience for themselves and their spirits.
When the missionaries baptised people, they also used the same principle to disconnect the African from their spiritual roots.
They assigned them new names, a practice now ingrained in many Africans who give their children English and often meaningless names.
All our ancestral spirits, our spiritual powers become concentrated on the places or items that we have named as ours.
They literally defend these possessions on behalf of the living, the same way perhaps Christians believe that Jesus looks after themselves and theirs.
The name provides the label and the identity.
In almost all cases where a land is conquered, the new masters give a new name.
Examples abound; Congo became Zaire when Mobutu Sese Seko took over and reverted to Democratic Republic of the Congo when Kabila took over.
Nyasaland became Malawi and Northern Rhodesia, Zambia at attainment of independence.
The Gold Coast became Ghana while Bechuanaland became Botswana.
The point to note is that names are extremely important.
They literally define the nature and character of entities so named, including individuals.
What’s in a name? Everything it seems.
DURING the war, the comrades realised the need to educate the masses.