The minister of arts and culture Nathi Mthethwa has published a government gazette indicating that the Eastern Cape town of Grahamstown will have its name changed to Makhanda.
In an attached statement, Mthethwa said that in South Africa it had been standard practice to change names which were not in line with the letter and spirit of the constitution.
“It is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that recommended that the renaming of geographic features be a form of ‘symbolic reparation’ to address an unjust past,” he said.
“These reparations include changing the names of geographical places. 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 the most vicious of the British commanders on that frontier.”
In comparison ‘Makhanda’ – who was also known as Nxele – was a Xhosa warrior, philosopher, prophet, and military man who fought against colonialism in battles that include one where he led an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in 1819, he said.
Mthethwa added that the name change follows over 20 years of deliberation with members of the public, academics, and historians – and as early as 2012 the Makana Local Municipality had public engagements on the name change.
Other names considered included Rhini, Makana and Nxele.
In December 2017, the council of Rhodes University voted against a name change for the institution , due it said, to financial constraints.