You have probably heard the story : some of the names of babies born in local clinics and hospitals after the 2008 “harmonised” Zimbabwean elections-
Electoral Commission Ndlovu
Foreign Observer Chimunda
Neck Toneck Nyamadzawo
Released Results Matongo
Meticulous Verification Chinengundu
Free & Fair Pazvakawambwa (Twins)
Rural Stronghold Khaliyathi
Polling Station Nhamoinesu
Ballotbox & Ballotpaper Kunonga (Twins)
My fascination with Zimbabwean names dates back, some two decades, to my first university vacation job as a personnel records clerk at Monarch Products, a Bulawayo household and travel goods manufacturer. Perhaps I should change this to a fascination with the way ‘indigenous’ Zimbabweans name their children in English. To be sure, this intriguing tendency is not exclusive to Zimbos. Happy Sindane is, after all, a South African. But who else in the world gives their children names such as Passmore, Scholastic, Promotion, Lovemore, Godknows, Promise, Knowledge, Moreblessings, Trademan, Bornfirst , Boniface, Takesure and many other suchlike gems?
I landed myself the princely vacation job because Monarch Products (part of the Treger Group of Companies) was, for the first time, computerising its personnel records. The first part of the job consisted of trawling through each employee’s personnel file for copies of birth and death certificates, note entries, and any evidence of family changes in the employee’s life and then updating the official record cards which for some reason had not been done for the previous decade or so. Once updated the card would then be passed on to some data capture clerk for the computerisation process. My part, in other words was painstaking and extremely boring. That is until I stumbled upon some of the most amazing examples of interesting names and decided to keep a toll and further amuse myself by working out the story behind each of the gems.
Anyone meeting Promotion Ncube today (perhaps now some hot-shot lawyer, teacher, soldier or one of Zimbabwe’s millions of refugees) would not know that in 1981, a month before his birth, his father- a leading hand in Monarch’s Travel Goods division- was promoted to first line supervisor! Old man Treger himself, probably late now, may not have known that at least three of his employees named their children “Treger” in appreciation of continued employment. Or perhaps even in some sycophantic search for that elusive promotion!
But my fascination goes back even further- to childhood days. I had a brother ,now late, called Bigboy , who has a son called Agreement. I attended Primary school with three boys, Sunrise, Sunshine and Sunset, the children of a neighbouring school headmaster. Or- as they were affectionately known- Rise, Shine and Set. (Incidentally, their three sisters were Ntombikayise, Ntombikanina and Ntombiyelizwe- literally father’s girl, mother’s girl and the nation’s girl, respectively).
At about the same period, a village bully named Ambulance Ncube, five years older but two grades behind me, terrorised the whole school. One day I forgot to bring his “order” of cooked peanuts and he fractured my elbow with a knobkerrie. Our freedom from Ambulance’s tyranny only came when he ran away (from the pressures of yet another repeated lower primary school academic year!) to Geneva (as Zambia was popularly known after the 1975 Geneva Conference on Rhodesia) to “join the liberation struggle”. But that was not before my older brother Sibangilizwe, and an uncle, Smile Moyo, cornered and thrashed him until his own arm was broken! (Sibangilizwe, incidentally, means “we are fighting for the country” in siNdebele. A very nice name to present at a pre-independence Rhodesian Army roadblock, as my brother frequently found out!)
– Babusi Sibanda . Johannesburg, 2008
Babusi Sibanda. Mobile : +27721969188 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zimbabwean born, South African, freelance writer and columnist .
Has had numerous articles published in a variety of publications in the last 25 years including The Chronicle (Bulawayo), The Sunday News (Bulawayo), Moto, Parade, The Cape Times, Food & Home, Rootz, Femina, African Decisions, Mercedes , Mail & Guardian and others.
Member of SAFREA (Southern African Freelancers Association). Visit us at www.safrea.co.za