Maputo — The Municipal Assembly in the central Mozambican city of Beira on Wednesday voted to name a square in the Beira suburb of Munhava after Andre Matsangaissa, the man whom the illegal regime of Ian Smith, in what was then Rhodesia, appointed as first commander of the force that would eventually become known as Renamo.
Matsangaissa was commander of Renamo from 1977 until his death in an abortive attack on the town of Gorongosa in 1979, a period in which Renamo was essentially an irregular unit in the Rhodesian army, and gained an ugly reputation for attacking civilian buses and murdering the passengers.
Renamo regards Matsangaissa as a hero, but to the ruling Frelimo Party he was just a traitor, working for the foreign power that was attacking the young Mozambican state.
According to a report in the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique", the Municipal Assembly received a petition from 245 Beira residents requesting that the square be given Matsangaissa's name.
Since the square was currently unnamed, and is known simply as "the Munhava roundabout", the Renamo majority on the Assembly agreed.
The Frelimo minority protested - first on the technical grounds that the Assembly had not made the proper investigations to confirm that the square really was unnamed, and then using the more substantial legal argument that the Assembly has no power to attribute street names.
Indeed, under an amendment to the municipal legislation passed on 12 April, municipalities can no longer change the names of streets or of other public places without the approval of the Ministry of State Administration.