News that Zimbabwean ruling party Zanu PF tabled a bill asking for renaming Victoria Falls is good news. Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo was recently quoted as saying, “Institutions bearing colonial names must be changed and be given indigenous names…school syllabuses in schools must also change.”
One media house reported that Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party was intending to change the name of Victoria Falls. Succumbing before west machinations, some media houses are writing things without either balancing their stories or just using common sense. What does Mugabe have to do with such a decision? Again, given that the media has always painted Mugabe with the same brush, whatever he does is taken negatively even when it is logical and progressive. I was baffled to read one story saying that Victoria Falls were discovered by a white man. What a lie!
Even if Mugabe is behind this name restoration, he is but right. How can such an attraction keep on bearing the name of the person who authorized the colonization and robbery of Zimbabwe? African might be poor economically but not mentally. So restoring our felled names should make us proud instead of looking at those trying to rejuvenate them with sheer suspicion and indifference.
By deciding to resume the real name of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe has championed what Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls the decolonization of the mind. However I don’t support Ngugi’s entire take on this, Zimbabwe’s take is commendable. It is sad to find that after over 50 years of independence Africa can’t be independent even about using her real names. Since independence many African countries still pointlessly cling unto colonial carryover –cum- hangover.
Chombo added, “We should teach our children about Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, General (Josiah Magama) Tongogara and other gallant fighters of our liberation struggle.” If this bill is passed, indeed, it is going to bring cultural and historic changes in the minds of Zimbabweans. As Africans, time for assuming our true identity has arrived shall we aspire to emancipate and decolonize our minds and countries. It is sad to note that many Africans still succumb before foreign names as if they did not have their own.
The step Zimbabwe has taken is credible and commendable shall it go deeper into exploring other important areas of the country.
Ironically, Harare still has many streets, roads and other places with colonial names such as Coventry Lytton, Prince Avenue, Prince Edward Swimming pool, Lawley, Borrowdale etc. again, Zimbabwe’s struggle to do away from colonial leftover started a long time ago when Salisbury was pulled down and renamed Harare just like Lourenco Marques in Mozambique that became Maputo.
Some other countries took bold steps by totally abolishing colonial names such as Burkina Faso and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
We currently still have capital cities which bear colonial names such as Dar es Salaam (Mzizima or healthy town in Swahili) which assumed an Arab name in 1866, Freetown (Koya Temne renamed in 1787), Lagos (Eko in Yoruba renamed in 1372 by Portuguese to mean Lakes), Windhoek (Aill Gams in Khoekhoe to mean hot springs or Otjomuise in Otijherero to mean streams was renamed in 1844, Libreville (1839) and Niamey (Arlit 1890) to mention a few.
When you tell people to replace colonial names with the original ones they complain about expenses of changing books. Is there any fiscal value equal to one’s real and true identity? Why should Africa have many European names in many places while the same Europe doesn't have any African (savagery names)? Are we truly savages who can’t respect and appreciate our identity? Does this need donors or experts from Europe and America? African leaders need to face this challenge and do the right thing at this very right time.
Returning to our true past is our duty. As William Hazlitt put it, “Fame is the inheritance not of the dead, but of the living. It is we who look back with lofty pride to the great names of antiquity.” Dogs and other animals can accept any names given to them because they don’t use them. To the contrary, humans should not act like animals to forget their history, origin and self even after many years of indifference and insincerity as it is in the case of Africa and superimposed-colonial names.
I like this humourous quote, “what’s your name,' Coraline asked the cat. ‘Look, I'm Coraline. Okay? ''Cats don't have names,' it said.
'No?' said Coraline.'No,' said the cat. 'Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names,” Neil Gaiman, Coraline.
For many people Zimbabwe look bad especially when it started taking farms from white settlers who stole those farms from Africans at the time of occupying Zimbabwe, she still can have something nice to offer, traditions, traditions, traditions and self-awareness. Is this a bad thing really?
Source: The African Executive Magazine Dec., 25, 2013.