First Lady Grace Mugabe now has a road named after her.This is after the ruling Zanu PF party grabbed the open space adjacent to the Rainbow Towers Hotel and Harare Magistrates’ Court and renamed it the Robert Mugabe Square.
The main road leading into it has been named after Mugabe’s wife and now becomes Dr Grace Mugabe Way.
Interestingly, the newly renamed road runs from the Robert Mugabe Road, completing the First Family’s stamp on the city.
The Robert Mugabe Square is the same place where opposition MDC-T party leader Morgan Tsvangirai held his largest pre-election rally in July last year.
The opposition party had christened the open space — 18 hectares in size — “Freedom Square”.
The road leading to the grounds from Rekayi Tangwena Avenue has been renamed Congress Road and that leading to the grounds from the southern side will be known as Gutsaruzhinji Walk.
The grounds, owned by Harare City Council, have since been spruced up and turned into the venue for Zanu PF’s 6th national congress which opens in the capital today.
State-of-the-art facilities have been erected.
They include air-conditioned tents, street lighting, portable toilets, presidential offices and restrooms, a media centre and an administration block.
But Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni yesterday condemned the move to name the area after the First Family without the consent of the City Fathers.
“My assumption is this can’t be permanent. We have not named any roads in Harare. Those are illegal structures,” Manyenyeni said.
Manyenyeni also disclosed that construction of roads leading to the venue had been jointly carried out by the city council’s public works department, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration and the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
“I have just been told that Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) and the ministry [Local Government] are paying for the works. The offending issue may be one that these roads would ordinarily be low volume, low priority, but because of the congress, they are now being fixed ahead of more deserving roads,” Manyenyeni added.
When NewsDay visited the premises yesterday, billboards had been erected at every corner of the venue.
According to the Urban Councils Act section 212 (1), the naming of roads and streets within council areas remains the prerogative of the local authority.
The section reads: “The council may from time to time assign names to roads within the council area and cause the name of any road to be affixed to or painted on any house, building or other structure fronting upon any part of such road.”
Section 212 (3) reads in part: “No person shall, without the permission of the council — (a) destroy, remove or deface any name affixed or painted by the council in terms of subsection (1); or (b) destroy, remove or deface any number marked or affixed by a person in terms of a direction given under subsection (2) or by the council in terms of that subsection; or(c) fail to keep marked or affixed the number specified in the notice given under subsection (2).”
The renaming of the city roads has sparked an uproar on social media networks with people saying this was a sign of desperation by organisers of the event to please the First Family.
The ZBC has set up an outside broadcasting van for live transmission of the Zanu PF congress proceedings, while private telecommunications companies have installed a mobile base station and Internet data cables.
State-owned firms will play significant roles at the congress.
CMED (Pvt) Ltd will provide VIP transportation, while Zupco buses will ferry most of the provincial and district delegates across the country ahead of the main event on Wednesday.
The congress itself was likely to be full of drama and surprises judging by the build-up to today’s event where several top party officials, including Vice-President Joice Mujuru, were purged for allegedly plotting to either assassinate or topple Mugabe.
Party youths have also vowed to block Mujuru’s allies from attending the congress.
The Zanu PF politburo is expected to meet today, while the central committee will meet ahead of the official opening of congress by Mugabe later this week.
Yesterday, Mugabe toured the congress venue with Mujuru and party secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa conspicuous by their absence.
Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, Youth Affairs secretary Absalom Sikhosana, political commissar Webster Shamu and Energy deputy minister Munacho Mutezo accompanied the President during the tour.
Several companies and parastatals among them Air Zimbabwe, Econet, Zinara, the Ministry of Transport, Rainbow Towers, Potraz and many other companies have advertised at the venue with their banners on display.
This year’s congress was expected to be attended by 12 000 delegates with the party’s regional counterparts from South Africa’s African National Congress; Mozambique’s Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo); Zambia’s United National Independence Party; Namibia’s South West Africa Peoples’ Organisation (Swapo); Angola’s Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola and Botswana’s Botswana Democratic Party also expected to grace the occasion.