The awarding of the Freedom of the City honour to Vice-President John Nkomo by the MDC-T led Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is still a contentious issue and the date of the ceremony remains suspended indefinitely, NewsDay can reveal.
The event, which was supposed to be held in December last year, was unceremoniously postponed after the reported intervention of senior MDC-T leaders from Matabeleland who were reportedly not happy with the decision by the MDC-T council to glorify a senior Zanu PF official.
Bulawayo mayor Thaba Moyo on Friday confirmed to NewsDay that the ceremony had been put on hold.
“The ceremony to award the Freedom of the City status was suspended indefinitely,” the mayor said.
“We have no idea when it will be held. So all we can do is to wait.”
An impeccable source within BCC however said the issue was unresolved as officials were passing the buck.
“The issue is contentious and no one is willing to talk about it, especially within council walls,” said the source.
“Even in the meetings that are held monthly, the issue has never been discussed since it was unceremoniously stopped.”
“There are particular offices or departments that are supposed to handle the issue, but they continuously shift responsibility from one office to the other,” said the source.
The ceremony was also supposed to award former city councillor Job Ndebele a civic honours award.
However, he will also have to wait for the main ceremony to receive his award.
Nkomo’s city honour was called off indefinitely reportedly after pressure from senior MDC-T officials from Matabeleland, who said the move was ill-timed.
The MDC-T officials argued that Nkomo had made unsavoury remarks about the inclusion of MDC-T in the government of national unity through the Global Political Agreement, labelling the move a serious political blunder.
They also argued that the Zanu PF governors would also attend the ceremony yet they (MDC-T) did not recognise them.
Civil society organisations in Matabeleland are believed to have shared the sentiment that Nkomo’s candidature for the award was “misplaced”, although they did not have influence on the suspension of the ceremony.
They said Nkomo belonged to a party that was responsible for the atrocities that had affected people of Matabeleland and hence did not deserve an honorary award.
Freedom of the city is an honour bestowed by some municipalities in Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe to esteemed members of the community or to organisations that have rendered the community heroic service.