Arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa rejected all objections to the heavily criticised name changes in the Eastern Cape, saying they have no merit.
In a statement on Sunday (20 June), the minister said that his department received 13,000 objections to naming changes that were gazetted in February 2021, which include:
- 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.
Mthethwa and his department have faced criticism for the changes, with notable objections including:
- Insufficient consultation was done at the local level;
- Alternative names had been ignored;
- Renaming these places would drive away tourists; or
- Money spent on renaming could be better spent on service delivery;
- The new names have nothing to do with the people of Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality or are a duplication of existing place names.
Mthethwa said that after receiving the advice of the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC), and after applying his mind to the merits of all the objections, he decided that all the objections do not merit review. Thus, all the objections are rejected, he said.
Mthethwa said that the name changes are necessary to help South Africa achieve its transformation goals.
He said that the SAGNC Act was gazetted in 1998 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.
“As a country, 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,” he said.