Mthethwa rejects objections into Eastern Cape name changes

Monday, June 21, 2021

Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, has rejected objections raised on recent geographical name changes in the Eastern Cape.

In February the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture gazetted twenty-three names that Minister Mthethwa had approved on geographical name changes in the Eastern Cape.

The name changes included the change of names of Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha, Uitenhage to Kariega, King Williamstown to Qonce, East London Airport to King Phalo Airport and Port Elizabeth Airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

Following the gazetting of the names, the Ministry and the Department received a number of objections as follows: three boxes with petition signatures of 12,402 residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay were sent through to the office of the Executive Mayor.

The Ministry also received 690 emails with objections to the name changes that had been gazetted. These objections are provided for in section 10 of the South African Geographical Names Act 118 of 1998.

In a statement on Sunday, the department said the objections varied from claims that insufficient consultation was done at the local level, alternative names had been ignored, that the renaming would drive away tourists, or that the money spent on renaming could be better spent on service delivery.

There were also claims that the new names have nothing to do with the people of Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality or are a duplication of existing place names.

The Minister requested the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) to go through all the objections and advise him accordingly.

The Council submitted evidence to the Minister that consultation was done throughout the province by the Provincial Geographical Names Committee before recommendations of geographical names were submitted to the SAGNC.

The SAGNC further advised the Minister that all provisions of the SAGNC Act 118 of 1998 were followed at all processes during the consideration of the names gazetted on 23 of February 2021.

After receiving the advice of the SAGNC and after applying his mind to the merits of all the objections, the Minister decided that all the objections do not merit the review of the decisions on geographical names gazetted on 23 February 2021. Thus, all the objections were rejected.

“The Minister would like to reiterate that one of the main purposes of the SAGNC Act 118 of 1998 is to transform South Africa’s naming landscape and ensure that the names of places in South Africa reflect the languages, culture and heritage of the majority of the people of this country, instead of reflecting the country’s colonial and apartheid past.

“The renaming of geographical features is also done in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which recommended the renaming of geographical features after those who contributed towards the attainment of freedom and democracy as part of symbolic reparations,” said the department.

The department said South Africa needs to accelerate the transformation of the names of places “we live in so that we can bequeath to our children and grandchildren a country whose place names reflect their language, culture and heritage.” –