By Patrick Nimisi –
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has ordered the southern African country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, to name a street after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of his state visit later this month.
President Kenyatta will officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo on April 29.
A Bulawayo City Council confidential report shows that councillors expressed concern about the short notice given to the local authority to identify the street and were worried that the move could be legally challenged if residents are not consulted.
Local Government Minister July Moyo told the council that it must “treat this matter with the urgency it deserves.”
The minister said President Kenyatta will also plant a tree during his visit and the council was ordered to provide a location for the tree.
One of the councillors, Silas Chigora said President Mnangagwa’s directive had the danger of “setting a wrong precedent that every president who officiates at ZITF should have a street named in their honour.”
“This is a matter of concern that has to be addressed before it becomes a tradition,” he told a council meeting.
Zimbabwe’s High Court last year overturned a government directive to rename several roads in Bulawayo that were to be named after heroes of the country’s 1970s liberation war.
One of the cities was to be named after President Mnangagwa.
The High Court ruled that decisions such as renaming of roads cannot be taken without public consultations.
President Mnangagwa was in Kenya on a state visit last month where he invited President Kenyatta to be the guest of honour at the ZITF, the country’s prime trade showcase.
Observers say Zimbabwe’s 79-year-old ruler is keen to win President Kenyatta to his side for his own political survival.
He has been prodding Kenya to extradite a former Zimbabwean minister, Jonathan Moyo, a loyalist of the late president Robert Mugabe who fled the country during the 2017 military coup.
Prof Moyo, who is married to a Kenyan, has been holed up in Nairobi despite attempts by Zimbabwe to have him extradited to face corruption charges.
The former ruling Zanu PF strategist under Mr Mugabe says his life will be in danger if he is forced to return home as soldiers tried to kill him and his family during the coup.
President Mnangagwa is also said to be keen to lean on President Kenyatta to persuade his ally Raila Odinga to cut ties with Zimbabwe opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
President Kenyatta has endorsed Mr Odinga to succeed him ahead of elections in August.