Expect more name changes for towns and streets in South Africa

Sport, Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa says that name changes remain key to the country’s transformation efforts, and that his department will continue to explore this when necessary.

Speaking at a Freedom Month event on Friday (8 April), Mthethwa said the transformation of the heritage landscape, which had largely remained white, is a key function of his department.

“This is our own way as a sector in bringing meaning to freedom. In ensuring that the many unearthed and untold stories are given the platform through the national oral history project that we support.

“Through the geographical names project, we have also deliberately set the country on a path towards healing by changing names of towns and cities which have unsavoury colonial and apartheid connotations. In doing so, we have always sought to consult widely in ensuring that the affected communities are part of the name-change process.”

However, Mthethwa noted that the country’s name changes have not always been well received, with critics often citing the high administrative costs involved in the process.

“Despite occasional litigation by disgruntled parties, this process has had resounding success and it thus remain work-in-progress. Symbolism is extremely important.

“It is also through symbolism that people feel part of a community and the broader society and geographical name change is one of those potent assistive we have available as a Department in effecting the desired social change.”

Mthethwa most recently gazetted changes in March 2022, with several Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga towns, areas and settlements seeing their names changed.

In February 2021, Mthethwa announced a number of name changes in the Eastern Cape which he said were for transformation purposes.

Some of the most notable changes included:

  • Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha;
  • Uitenhage to Kariega;
  • King Williamstown to Qonce;
  • East London Airport to  King Phalo Airport;
  • Port Elizabeth Airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

Read: ‘Rewriting our history books and curriculum is a good start’ – planned changes for schools in South Africa

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