Local Government minister, July Moyo has defended a recent, controversial government move to impose new names on some of Bulawayo’s major roads.
Government was taken to court by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) earlier this year after it unilaterally imposed the names on city streets.
BPRA through their lawyers Job Sibanda and Associates filed an application at the Bulawayo High Court challenging S1167/20 under Names (Alterations) (Amendment of Schedule) Notice.
In his response to the court challenge, Moyo maintained he acted within the confines of the law when he gazetted the renaming of some streets in major cities and towns.
Moyo also dismisses claims he did not consult stakeholders in the city.
His response was filed through the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s office.
Moyo argued that section (4) (2) of the names Alteration Act Chapter 10:14 allowed him to change the names.
“Section (4) (2) of the names Alteration Act Chapter 10:14 provided that the minister shall not alter the name of any public building, road or street except after consultations with the person in whom the ownership or control of the buildings, roads or street is vested.
“The cabinet at its 41st meeting discussed the issues of change of street names within various local authorities countrywide,” responded Moyo in his application.
The minister said on 14 January 2020, he wrote to all the local authorities affected with the proposed name change consulting on the changes and requested submissions.
“On 10 February, 2nd respondent replied to the ministry with their submissions and highlighted that their comments would be presented to the cabinet committee on name changes of street names which is chaired by Vice President Kembo Mohadi,” said Moyo.
The minister said 2nd respondent (Bulawayo city council) was advised of the government decision to change the names.
“It is therefore not correct to allege that the procedure of the enabling Act was not followed. The necessary consultations were done with 2nd respondent,” said the minister.
In his founding affidavit, BPRA executive chairperson Ambrose Sibindi maintained the name changes were a nullity since they violated some provisions of the Urban Councils Act.
“The first respondent (Minister Moyo)’s attempt to alter the names of the concerned streets runs afoul the very law that allows to alter such names.
“He did not consider the provisions of section 4 (2) of the enabling Act before coming up with a raft of names that he sought to impose on second respondent and the residents of Bulawayo,” said Sibindi in the application.
Sibindi argued that section 4(2) of the enabling Act prohibits the minister from altering any names in terms of subsection (1) unless the owner of the land where the alteration is to take place has been consulted.
“The alteration of names of streets and buildings in any place is a very sensitive and personal affair which the enabling Act was alive to by making it a condition precedent for consultations to take place with the owner of the land before it is done. Viewed through an impartial eye, such actions are I submit grossly an eyesore, unnatural and patently illegal,” said Sibindi.
According to the S1 167/20, Sixth Avenue Extension in Bulawayo has been renamed Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.
Other major roads that have been renamed include, 12th Avenue which is now Joseph Msika, Avenue, and Colenbrander Road is now Lookout Masuku Avenue, 9th Avenue is Simon Vengai Muzenda Avenue and 4th Avenue through to 7th Street up to King George is Landa John Nkomo Road.
In February this year, Bulawayo city council renamed some of the city’s major streets and buildings in a move the local authority said was meant to preserve pre-colonial and post -colonial history and heritage of the city.
However, the government dismissed the council’s move claiming that only the minister has the power to change names.