Freedom of the City: Debate in wrong context

HARARE - The raging debate on a proposal to award Bulawayo’s Freedom of the City honours to Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai by the current council has brought Bulawayo alive.

A shortcoming of the debate is that it is being politicised from both ends of the pole.

The argument being advanced on all platforms that are against the proposal is that the PM has done nothing for the city of Bulawayo and the award should be given to those people that have.

Others are calling for citizen participation on the selection process.

This does not hold water because the Freedom of the City by its design has nothing to do with the recipient doing anything for the city of Bulawayo.

Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki got the Bulawayo Freedom of the City. Can anyone show us any special contribution that Thabo Mbeki did for the city of Bulawayo?

I can ask the same question of many people in that red book at the City Hall foyer who has been awarded the honour.

They all have not done anything for the city with the exception of President Mugabe and the local city boy Joshua Nkomo who continues to be under celebrated by his own city and people.

No citizens participated in the selection processes.

My point is that if we are not politicking and taking the Freedom of the City honours in its right context then I am afraid the Prime Minister does qualify for the Freedom of the City as a political leader in the country.

Show me any leader of an opposition political party since independence who has not only driven Zanu PF out of Bulawayo but nearly out of the whole of Matabeleland and every city in the country.

The MDC under the leadership of the premier has been able to do this.

Zanu PF is not a weak political party. It is one of the strongest political parties to ever come out of the African continent.

It is led by principled, committed, intelligent and experienced politicians. It is precisely for this reason that it has governed Zimbabwe for 33 years.

Zanu PF is not a bunch of babies in politics unless if we want to think that it is one of those useless push over political parties that get formed towards every election only to die after it.

Zanu PF is not that kind of organisation. It is a solid machine with deep political roots making it difficult to easily uproot.

However the prime minister’s party drove them out of Bulawayo and Matabeleland to the woods and for this the PM does qualify for the Freedom of the City of Bulawayo than any other city in Zimbabwe if we keep to the context of the Freedom of the City award.

He achieved where others have tried and failed before him. Not only that, his exploits in politics have made him prime minister of Zimbabwe like it or not and that makes him a very prominent person in Zimbabwe and the qualifies for the freedom of the city should anyone think of giving it to him.

If we are politicking then it is a different story. Many forces and factors can be brought at play not to give the prime minister the Freedom of the City.

In that case we should then be mindful that the debate has then nothing to do with the Freedom of the City as an award.

If we are redefining the award to be what the citizens want it to be because it has been overtaken by its own founding history then that is welcome as well.

The origins of the freedom of the city award take us many years into the past when people had to pay taxes to visit a city or walk around in that city with a gun.

This has been updated by modern cities to what we know today as tollgates.

Very prominent people of the world then would be given Freedom of the City exempting them to pay the visitor’s tax and carry a gun around the city as a way of encouraging them to visit more often and bring their wealth into the city.

These people did not have to do anything for the city to be awarded the Freedom of the City.

They had to be prominent in some field and position of influence that would allow them to be useful in the future growth of that city.

Today that concept would fall under the field of attracting investors.

Given the evolution of cities over the years Bulawayo has all the right to redefine the Freedom of the City award and even award it to the prime minister for causing that redefinition to take process and effect.

To you all the citizens of Bulawayo we lose nothing in awarding the premier the freedom of the city but we lose everything for not awarding our own local boy John Landa Nkomo the Freedom of the City.

It was John Landa Nkomo who was standing next to JZ Moyo when the parcel bomb that killed the liberator in that office in Lusaka exploded and ripped off his face.

He later became vice president of Zimbabwe and we have not given him the Freedom of the City.
 
Our own boy!!! We have not debated that error with the same vigour that we have done the proposal to award the same to the prime minister.

Always remember that when we over politic we lose vision. - Staff Writer

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