'Away with Mugabe'

Sicelo Dladla

Sicelo Dladla

It's a case of people voting against Mugabe. But, eThekwini officials say the outcry over his name for a street in Umlazi is a storm in a tea cup.

The name Mugabe Street in Umlazi's AA section was first put up in 1997 when streets were named after the 1994 elections.

Most streets in the township did not have names before that.

But residents are now aware of the latest 101 new street name changes for Durban. They are up in arms, saying why have a street named after a "cruel dictator".

Umlazi resident Zandile Mntambo said yesterday: "Why name the street after a leader who does not respect democracy? Robert Mugabe is a tyrant.

"People are starving in Zimbabwe because of him and he is not a good role model for our children," Mntambo said.

Another resident, Themba Mabaso, said it would be "sad" if the street was really named after the Zimbabwean leader.

"The committee responsible for renaming the streets should remove this name immediately.

"I don't understand why name the street after Mugabe who robbed people of their rights during the previous parliamentary elections," Mabaso said.

But chairman of the municipality's Masakhane committee, Zandile Gumede, denied that a street had been given Robert Mugabe's name.

"I can assure you. There is no Robert Mugabe in the list of new names that are being put up right now," Gumede said.

In the AA section of Umlazi there is a yellow sign with the name Mugabe on it. All the new signs being put up are white.

Local councillor Sbonelo Mthembu said that the street was named after Mugabe during the first phase of street renaming in 1997 when the ward was still under the IFP.

"I don't know what this noise is about because this sign has been there for a decade now," Mthembu said.

Mthembu did not know if the street was named after the Zimbabwean president or just a local hero.

"I cannot answer that," he said.

Although the street was named when the ward was under the IFP, the party's chairman, Muntomuhle Khawula, said the ANC-led municipality must take the rap. He said the name would have been approved by the municipality and had nothing to do with the IFP.

"We were also shocked to learn that there is a street named after the Zimbabwean leader when they wanted to remove the name of our president, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

"We have never had a relationship with the government of Zimbabwe and the world knows who the friends of Mugabe are," he said.

Meanwhile, the eThekwini municipality has not backed off from renaming the Mangosuthu Highway Griffiths Mxenge.

Gumede said: "We will definitely put up the new sign bearing the name of the late human rights lawyer," she said.