When David Livingstone “discovered” Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders) in November 1855, he was fascinated by the falls such that he thought they must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight and decided to (re)name the place Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria (the British Queen).
From that time, the name Victoria Falls has gained a lot of traction outside the country, especially in Europe as people from that continent stumbled to come and see the place that was said to have been gazed by angels and also named after a prominent monarch.
Even in independent Zimbabwe, the falls have continued to trade under the queen’s name and is arguably the highest selling tourism destination in Zimbabwe such that even South Africa have been marketing it for their advantage.
However, there have been talks about the need to change the name from Victoria Falls because it is said to be a reminder of the colonial era and re-name to Mosi-oa-Tunya.
Former Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni posted on his Facebook page that, “We hear occasional calls to re-name the Victoria Falls (many suggest Mosi-oa-Tunya). But these calls must not ride on emotional, political or ethnic ‘correctness’ to make such sub-economic proposals.
“Vic Falls is a global brand-it’s an international business largely based in Zimbabwe. Mind you, Zambia is in this too. South Africa too has for many years marketed the Falls as a South African tourist destination!
“The Falls is a foreign product distributed in Zimbabwe. It is just a geo-political creature with a Zim GPS location. The biggest item on the Vic Falls income statement is the foreign goodwill,” he said
According to Manyenyeni, “Victoria Falls Town has all the options of even being run by foreigners like Emirates or Dubai-with HUGE benefits. The Falls brand must not be tampered with. At worst, you can re-name the town but not the Falls themselves.
“I am sure Zambia is waiting for Zimbabwe to score its own suicidal goal in our political side-shows. All it takes is some politically-aligned voice to chant loud enough and 100 years of goodwill vanishes overnight,” the former Harare Mayor said.
Responding to Manyenyeni, Kudzai-Martin Mandizha said renaming the Victoria Falls would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
“It is not surprising that most in the West think that Victoria Falls is in South Africa, mainly because we as Zimbabweans have failed to market it to world standards. The Emirates were interested in doing grand business there, but as we all know, nothing came out of it.
“Kenya, which is just under 3 hours flight from Harare has done extremely in showcasing Mombasa, and their various Game and Wildlife. We could learn from them, or from the South Africans, on how to advertise world class tourist attractions.
“But changing the name to get political mileage, or to divert attention from the poor performances of our government is hardly wisdom,” he said.
Eddie Mahembe wrote “In a country which is starved of infrastructure, why can’t we build new hospital, etc and name them after our heroes and heroines instead of just renaming without corresponding development. Everything is now dilapidated.
“”I remember some white farmers used to support one of the hostels at our school because it was named after their leader. After the hostel was renamed, that was the end of fresh farm produce,” he said
However, Simbarashe Manhanga was of the contrary opinion arguing that nobody comes to see the falls because of the name but of what they are
“Would re-branding Victoria Falls as Mosi-oa-Tunya really result in economical loss that is disastrous? How many tourists are worried about coming to see the falls who don’t give a hoot what you call them?
“How many come to see them because they are so named? Would re-branding cause a shift in numbers of tourists?
“Why not use a double barrel name If the loss is too much with an intention to normalise the correct name in the long run? I know for example that a lot of tourist places in KZN, Limpopo have indigenous names and tourists have no issues with that. It is the service they want and indigenous names, as one tour operator said, adds to the mystique.
“I guess it is all up to us and how we want this done not foreigners. The SA operators who are currently benefiting from the falls will have to deal with this small inconvenience. The biggest hurdle though will be the expense to re-brand everything locally. Soft copies are easily amended but not hard copies but it is a small price to pay l guess,” he said
According to Cornelius Nyahunda “The Brand Victoria Falls is GLOBAL…Its the Nike for global holidaymakers and the value of that name is immeasurable on the current balance sheet. It will indeed be an Own Goal which ends the sport, not the game, to make such a change,” he said.
To Tempt Mhonda re-branding is a common exercise and will only require advertising the new name
“”Brands have been re-branding all the time to meet the identity of those who own the brand. We have to find a viable way to do it. Start with the town, then once people get comfortable with the town, go for the falls themselves.
“Advertise it with the indigenous name being prominent for the next 5 years. Who wouldn’t want to visit “Mosi-oa-tunya, the smoke that thunders “.
Lovemore Fuyane added that “We clearly have lots of time on our hands in Zimbabwe, from that to people wanting to dig up (Cecil John) Rhodes grave you name it. Meanwhile the truth is staring us in the face and loudly telling us a revolution is due.
“We like destroying particularly things that can’t defend themselves like a dead person. We won’t confront the British to return our gold and pay reparations for colonialism but would rather pull such foolish stunts,” he said
Former legislator David Chapfika had this to say on the issue “Ben with all due respect, tourists dont wispy places of attraction because of their names but their natural attractions. Some people were resisting changing names including Salisbury to Harare arguing that Salisbury was a beautiful name and the same for many other name changes.
“Time is now ripe to call it Mosi-oa-Tunya formerly Victoria Falls for a period until such time the market is aware. It will also give us an opportunity for South Africa to stop marketing it as their product.
“Fear not nothing will change, you will be shocked tourists will love the name MOSI-OA-TUNYA.
Let’s go for it. This is the time. No to Neocolonialism,” he said.
Charles Munkuli argued that Mosi-oa-Tunya is not the actual name of the falls “The correct name though is “Nsyuungu na Mutitima” in Tonga, translated to Mosi-oa-Tunya by Lozi people. As for the “global brand” name, we can do without colonial names. Brand names are generated and built.
“The underlying structure is not modified, it is a name change that seeks to create the correct historical context of the natural wonder-which context can not be divorced from the Africans who lived around it for centuries. Tourism is created – we can not rely on colonial relics in generating funds.
“We can not forever be beholden to the West and its neocolonial agenda. At one point, we need to be ourselves. Those who stop visiting because of a name change can do so. They were not sincere. We define our own path,” he said.