ZANU PF has taken over an open space between the City Sports Centre and Harare Magistrates’ Courts and renamed it Robert Mugabe Square, with a new road leading to the area named Dr Grace Mugabe Way in honour of the First Lady.
The grounds, which belong to the Harare City Council, have since been spruced up in preparation for the party’s national congress which opens in the capital today — with state-of-the-art facilities including marquee air-conditioned tents, street lighting, portable toilets, presidential offices and restrooms, a media centre and administration rooms.
Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni yesterday condemned the move by the ruling Zanu PF to name the area after the First Family without the consent of the city fathers.
“My assumption is this can’t be permanent,” he said.
“We have not named any roads in Harare, those are illegal structures.”
Manyenyeni revealed that construction of roads leading to the venue had been jointly carried out by the city’s public works department, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) and the Local Government ministry.
“I have just been told that Zimbabwe National Road Administration and the ministry (Local Government) are paying for the works,” he said.
“The offending issue may be one that these roads would ordinarily be low volume, low priority, but because of congress they are now being fixed ahead of more deserving roads.”
Dr Grace Mugabe Way runs between Rekai Tangwena and Robert Mugabe Street at the entrance of the congress venue now known as Robert Mugabe Square.
The party also renamed Belvedere Road as Gutsaruzhinji Walk, while a new road that leads into the congress venue from along Rekai Tangwena has been named Congress Way West.
Last year, the opposition MDC-T held its “cross over rally” at the same place and verbally named it “Freedom Square”.
According to the Urban Councils Act Section 212 (1), the naming of roads and streets within council area remains the preserve of the local authority.
“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,” reads the law.
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 have sparked uproar on social media networks, with people saying this was a sign of desperation to please the First Family by those organising the event, which runs from today until December 7.
State broadcaster, ZBC, has set up an outside broadcasting van for live transmission of congress proceedings, while private telecommunications companies Econet and Africom have installed a mobile base station and installed Internet data cables.
Other State-owned enterprises that will play significant roles at the congress are CMED for VIP transportation, while Zupco buses will ferry most of the provincial and district delegates.
This year’s congress is expected to be attended by 12 000 delegates with the party’s regional counterparts from South Africa’s ANC, Mozambique’s Frelimo, Zambia’s Unip, Namibia’s Swapo, Angola’s MPLA and Botswana’s BDP also expected to attend.
The congress itself is likely to be full of drama and surprises judging from 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 vowed to block Mujuru’s allies from the congress.
Meanwhile, the Zanu PF politburo is expected to meet today while the central committee will meet tomorrow ahead of the congress’ official opening on Thursday.