Goodbye Ladysmith – big name changes for South Africa pushed through

 ·25 Mar 2024

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture has gazetted the latest round of name changes for South Africa, which includes the official changes for Ladysmith in KZN and William Nicol Drive in Joburg.

William Nicol Drive in South Africa’s most populous metro has had a name change in the works for several years, and the official process to change the name kicked off in August 2023.

By the end of the year, the road’s new signage was already in place, with the R511 route now known as Winnie Mandela Drive.

The change for Ladysmith, however, was less signalled, with the potential for a name change arising in 2023. Despite mixed feelings about the change, a new name has been pushed through.

After 180 years, Ladysmith will now be known as uMnambithi.

According to local media reports, residents in the Alfred Duma (Ladysmith) Municipality area voted on the change and possible names between 27 November 2023 to 1 December 2023.

Another name change to go through is Kirkwood in the Eastern Cape, which has been changed to Nqweba.

The table below outlines the changes:

Old NameNew NameProvinceMunicipalityFeature
William Nicol (R511)Winnie Mandela (R511)GPCity of JohannesburgRoad
LadysmithuMnambithiKZNAlfred DumaTown
KirkwoodNqwebaECSundays River ValleyTown

In addition to the three changes above, the department has also registered new features, including settlements, hills and mountains.

These are outlined below:

Old NameNew NameProvinceMunicipalityFeature
NewGutshwaMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewMvangatiniMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewMgcobaneniMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewMbonisweniMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewTshweneMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewSiliganeMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewKhumbulaMPCity of MbombelaSettlement
NewGutshwakopMPCity of MbombelaHill
NewMbonisweniMPCity of MbombelaMountain
Magoebaskloof DamMakgoba DamLPGreater TzaneenDam

South Africa has seen several key name changes over the last few years, mainly concentrated in the Eastern Cape. 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.

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

While the Free State has come up as a ‘target’ for several name changes, service delivery issues in the province have trumped concerns of geographical titles.

More recently, the Eastern Cape Provincial Geographical Names Committee (ECPGNC) has been holding public hearings in the province to change the names of the towns, including Graaff-Reinet and Aberdeen.

The committee wants to make the following changes:

  • Graaff-Reient to Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe
  • Adendorp to Kwa Mseki Bishop Limba;
  • Aberdeen to Camdeboo; and
  • Nieu-Bethesda to Kwa Noheleni.

The proposed changes have been met with pushback from the communities affected, and political parties in the province have called the process followed in putting the changes forward into question.

Read: Call to stop name changes for towns in South Africa

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