All the new name changes for South African cities, towns, and villages in 2023

 ·24 Dec 2023

Throughout 2023, there have been several proposed name changes for towns and villages in South Africa as part of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s goal of speeding up transformation reflected across the country’s geographical landmarks.

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture said in May this year that it aims to publish at least three national gazettes this year – ending March 2024 – detailing name changes for geographical features in South Africa.

In the department’s annual performance plan for 2023/24, it said that working with the South African Geographical Names Council, with the goal to gazette name changes in the second, third and fourth quarters of the year.

The South African Geographical Names Council is an advisory body that facilitates name changes by consulting with communities to advise the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture.

Name changes are handled in consultation with provincial councils and can apply to cities, towns, villages, rivers, mountains and various other geographical features.

As of the third quarter of the 2023/24 financial year, the department has made a host of name changes to various landmarks across the country – including eight towns and villages.

Aside from the naming of new geographic features in KwaZulu-Natal, most of the changed names for towns and cities have been in the Eastern Cape – much like all the name changes proposed for towns and villages in 2023.

The name changes gazetted in 2023 are given in the table below.

Old name New nameFeature (province)
Fort BeaufortKwaMaqomaTown (Eastern Cape)
Somerset EastKwaNojoliTown (Eastern Cape)
BrooksnekBen MbizweniVillage (Eastern Cape)
Graaff-ReinetRobert Sobukwe or Fred HufkieTown (Eastern Cape)
AdendorpKwa Mseki Bishop LimbaTown (Eastern Cape)
AberdeenCamdebooTown (Eastern Cape)
Nieu-BethesdaKwa NoheleniTown (Eastern Cape)
Makhatlanyeng SeqebukuVillage (Eastern Cape)

According to the department, 103 geographical name changes have occurred in the Eastern Cape since 2019.

Some of the most notable changes included:

  • Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha;
  • Morgan’s Bay to Gxarha;
  • Cradock to Nxuba;
  • Uitenhage to Kariega;
  • King Williamstown to Qonce;
  • East London Airport to King Phalo Airport; and
  • Port Elizabeth Airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture also noted that it had turned its focus to the Free State, as the pace of name changes in the Free State has been “very slow”.

However, despite its efforts, proposals for name changes in the province have not been forthcoming. According to the department, there are many reasons for this – but primarily, it’s because municipalities and local authorities are more focused on pressing service delivery issues.

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