What you need to know:
Like playwright and poet William Shakespeare put it, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The Zimbabweans seem to think likewise as they give their children such interesting names such as Jealous and Psychology.
We have all grown up with people called Hope, Peace, Grace or their vernacular translations and this seems normal. Parents chose the names largely to celebrate overcoming a huddle like waiting long to have a child or a child had during challenging times or situations. Others name children in the faithful belief that the name will shape the child’s path to success in life. Others use the name to simply send a message to their foes.
Take, for example, former vice president and Busiro North MP Prof Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya, who explains in his book, Through Intricate Corridors to Power, the reasons behind his Balibaseka name which means “they were laughing (at me).” Bukenya says he was born of a poor mother under a tree in the compound. His father was at best an absentee father who cared less and the mother brewed waragi, a local gin to raise him and his siblings. The name, Bukenya says, was a prediction of triumph by his mother who somehow foresaw success in her son against the sniggered comments of neighbours who saw no future in him.
Indeed, Bukenya was to grow and assume the second highest office in the land as vice president and now eyeing the presidency if he goes ahead with his plans to vie for the job at the next elections. Prof Bukenya was also to become successful as an academic, attaining the highest rank of professor of medicine he has financial success.
That end, his mother’s prediction that those who laughed at her would later bury their heads in shame came to pass as her son was able to give her a comfortable and happy life and a decent burial. Her faith and investment paid off.
Some names don’t turn out as predicted. The better for those given doomsday names, and a matter of regretful eulogy for those given positive and hopeful names.
But, welcome to Zimbabwe where the names will blow off your imagination. On a visit to this southern Africa country in July, I was mystified by what some parents think when giving certain names. Unlike Uganda, where the more dramatic choices are hidden in local languages, Zimbabweans carry theirs proudly in the English language for all to know.
With my group consisting of three other Ugandans, our second taxi driver after the one for the airport pick-up, was called Jealous! But he was a fine gentleman, a complete opposite of the name his parents chose for him. Mr Davidson Serunjogi, board member with the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, who was on the team, noted once, “but he is a fine gentleman, he doesn’t look anything like his name.”
On our itinerary, one of the key people we met was a Mr Psychology Maziwisa.
Psychology is a firebrand young member of the ruling Zanu-PF party. In his 30s, we learnt he had been a rabid critic of the party in the media until he was convinced to see the light in the ruling party and thus facilitate his cross-over. An assistant to Zanu-PF’s spokesman, Rugare Gumbo, Psychology tries to live up to his name’s billing trying to tease out answers from those he interacts with.
At an NGO, we were to meet a Memory, and then a Thank You (Tatenda in Shona) at the concierge of the hotel we stayed in. Actually, many Zimbaweans are named Memory and many are called Thank You.
However, their name bank has more for a first time visitor to this country, there was someone called More–blessings, another called Love, Clever, Lovemore, Integrity, Finest, Gain, Happiness, Timely and Remember.
For Love, you can find a Ugandan equivalent in Ngonzi, Kugonza or Kwagala. For Integrity, you can find a Mananu or Mazima, for Clever the local equivalent will be a Magezi which confuse a visitor unless translated.