THE decision to obliterate a symbol from the billboard at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport has triggered a major outcry, with political parties and activists calling for its restoration.

The controversy is centred around the removal of the symbol, bearing a spear and a knobkerrie synonymous with separatist Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP)’s insignia.

The emblem was replaced by a government court of arms insignia.

The MRP led the condemnation of the move. “We notice that the Zanu PF led government of Zimbabwe has taken yet another desperate move to frustrate the Mthwakazi restoration movement which, unfortunately for them, has already reached a no-turning point. This time around, they decided to substitute the Zimbabwe national Coat of Arms for the traditional Mthwakazi nation symbol at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport. The move is diabolic and evil-agenda- driven given the significance of the symbol they have erased. The shield-looking logo is symbolic of protection or defence of a nation,” MRP president Mqondisi Moyo said in an interview with Monday.

He said the move was tantamount to erasing the Ndebele history.

“The erasure of the symbol is, therefore, multi- significant: among other things, it signifies an attempt at the erasure of our history as Mthwakazi people. It suggests that the effort our forebears made towards resisting colonialism, which resistance also benefitted Zimbabwe, were futile. Only those of Mashonaland, represented by their Coat of Arms, count. This is a deliberate attempt at distorting history in broad day light,” said Moyo.

“The shield symbol is also representative of our heritage as Mthwakazi. It is a seal, a sign, a mark of our nationhood. We inherited it from our great, brave and focuses ancestors. By striking it off, the Zimbabwe government is attempting to deny us our heritage and imposing its own on us,” he said.

Various social media platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp, were also awash with complaints about the removal of the symbol.

“The person behind the change of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo’s billboard outlook without consulting Mthwakazi stakeholders should know uyazidlalela nje. The shield symbol will soon be retained, asidlali thina. You don’t just wake up and change anything especially what involves a national key point without consulting its stakeholders. MRP will fight this to the bitter end,” declared one social media user on his facebook wall.

“My president Michel Sibangilizwe Nkomo has visited the crime scene. The government of Zimbabwe shall be held to account. We will respond emphatically. Watch this space,” wrote another person purporting to be a Zapu supporter said.