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Shangaans seek names reversal to restore identity

by Staff reporter
01 Apr 2019 at 22:11hrs | Views
Traditional leaders and scholars from the VaTsonga tribe in Zimbabwe (also known as Shangaan) are demanding the reinstatement of names of local landmarks whose identities were controversially changed after the liberation war.

Names of such facilities as schools, beer halls and health facilities were changed during the period that ushered in Zimbabwe's independence, which was secured in 1980.

Among the landmarks at the centre of the disgruntlement is the site currently known as Chitsanga hill, where the Chiredzi District Heroes Acre is located.

It was prominent for having a fountain, at the foot of the hill that never dried, as well as plentiful reeds. Hence it bore the name Tihlanga hill.

Tihlanga is Tsonga for reeds.

Hebert Pikhela, an academic and researcher, criticised the renaming of the site.

"There is a false narrative that this place was an origin of any other tribe other than VaTsonga people. Our forefathers lived here and were displaced during the war. Others were later displaced with the coming in of sugarcane plantations. After the war, some other tribes came to stay here while VaTsonga also returned to their original places," he said.

Pikhela said the change of names risked distorting the Shangaan dynasty.

The scholar argued that Chiredzi's history had already been distorted with name changes.

He advocated for the town to be renamed to Tshovani.

"This area was called Tshovani township long back. It, therefore, follows that after attaining town status, it should have been renamed as thus.

Townhouse bosses changed Tshovani to Chiredzi," Pikhela argued.

Chiredzi was named after a local river that starts at the mountains between Chief Nhema and Chief Ndanga in Zaka.

Chiredzi is, on paper, under Ndanga district.

"We are not raising any tribal conflicts but as an equally important tribe, we also want to have a legacy in Zimbabwe. The fact that Chief Tshovani's land was under Ndanga district does not give Ndanga as Chief the jurisdiction of the land. It was a geo-political name not the definition of Chief Ndanga's territory," Pikhela insisted.

There is also dissatisfaction with the renaming of the beer hall now known as Chigarapasi. Situated in Chiredzi, it is said to be the biggest beer hall in Zimbabwe.

It is said to have been originally known as Tsamanihasi by VaTsonga people who stayed there before the liberation war of the 1970s.

A school under Chief Sengwe also had its name changed, albeit after a lawsuit.

Muhlanguleni Secondary School was originally named-PFukani before a headmaster from outside the area changed it to Mukai in 1984.

Coincidentally, there was also another school in the capital Harare bearing the same name.

There were problems when the school Chiredzi erroneously withdrew cash from a bank belonging to the Harare school, leading to a protracted legal battle.

The headmaster gave in to the rage of parents and changed the school's name to Muhlanguleni.

Local headman, Tiyani Chilonga under Chief Sengwe, also lamented the alteration of names of local facilities to dominant languages in the country.

"We have many names for schools and clinics that had their names changed from our language. This was due to officials running the administration of the area. I feel these names must be considered back to the original ones to avoid distortion and preserve our identity," Chilonga said.

Tsonga is largely spoken southeast of Zimbabwe and is one of the Southern African country's 16 official languages since the adoption of the 2013 Constitution.

VaTsonga have previously called on authorities to rename the Buffalo Range Airport and the Sango border post after local liberation heroes such as Justin Chauke buried at the national heroes shrine.

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Source - CAJ News