Government wants faster name changes for towns and roads in South Africa

 ·9 May 2022

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture says the standardisation and transformation of geographical names will remain a key focus going forward as the rate of transformation is not fast enough.

In its annual performance plan for 2022/2023, the department noted that geographical name changes are provided for under the South African Geographical Names Act of 1998 and overseen by the South African Geographical Names Council.

“The publishing of government gazettes is the last process in the process that starts at local government levels where communities propose the renaming of our villages, towns and cities in order for them to reflect the heritage and languages of the majority of the people of South Africa.

“The pace with which the transformation of the naming landscape is progressing is very slow given the number of names of towns and cities that still reflect South Africa’s colonial and apartheid heritage.”

The department said that it will now increase awareness campaigns which will assist South Africans and encourage local communities to be actively involved in the process of transforming the naming landscape.

“The public awareness campaigns will assist to minimise legal challenges against the minister’s decisions to change colonial and apartheid names to indigenous names. These campaigns also educate provincial and local authorities on the consultation and other required processes for name changes.”

The department added that name changes are a key transformation feature and are necessary for addressing past injustices.

“The advent of colonial and apartheid rules brought about the erosion and corrosion not only of our value system but also of original indigenous names of geographical features. This situation meant that indigenous knowledge systems in their multifaceted nature were subjugated and marginalised.

“The transformation agenda of the post-1994 government is designed to restore indigenous nomenclature, languages and heritage. To this effect, our Department continues to transform the heritage and naming landscape through changing and standardising names of geographical features.”

South Africa’s most recent name changes took place in March 2022, with Sport, Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa approving several changes in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga.

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.

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