Grahamstown name change gazetted

Monday, July 2, 2018

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has announced the name change for Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape in the Government Gazette.

“It is the Truth & Reconciliation Commission that recommended that the renaming of geographic features be a form of ‘symbolic reparation’ to address an unjust past. These reparations include changing the names of geographical places,” the Minister said in a statement on Monday.

Grahamstown, also affectionately known as the City of Saints, will be renamed after Xhosa warrior Makhanda, who was also known as Nxele. 

Makhanda was a philosopher, prophet and a military man, who fought against colonialism in battles including one where he led an attack against the British garrison in Grahamstown in 1819. 

The Department of Arts and Culture said name changes are an internationally accepted practice fully supported and endorsed by the United Nations.

“In this instance, there has a been a call for almost 20 years to change the name of the town, and those who have pushed for this name to be changed have been informed chiefly by what Colonel Graham epitomises, and the painfully bitter memories his name evokes,” the department said.

In South Africa, it has been standard practice to change names which are not in line with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

“Surely, we cannot prove ourselves committed (as government) to fully achieve these reparations if we retain names such as ‘Grahamstown’- named after Colonel John Graham, whose name is captured in history as being the most brutal and most vicious of the British commanders on that frontier,” Mthethwa said. –