85 towns hit with name changes in South Africa – and more are on the way

 ·14 Apr 2024

Data from the South African Geographic Names Council (SAGNC) shows that 1,505 name and name changes have been given since the start of the standardisation of the place names process, and 85 towns are among these.

The SAGNC was established by the South African Geographical Names Council Act, 1998 (Act No.118 of 1998) as the body responsible for standardising geographical names in South Africa.

According to the Council, its mission is to standardise geographical names in South Africa and to redress, correct and transform the geographical naming system in South Africa.

The SAGNC recorded data shows that name changes are proposed for several geographical features, including towns, villages, settlements, townships, mountains, rivers, airports, roads, and post offices.

Interestingly, the data shows that the council has gazetted and named or renamed 1,505 geographical features in South Africa since its inception.

According to the data, most of the naming and name changes have occurred in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), while the Eastern Cape and Limpopo were also popular provinces.

Of the 1,505 items noted on the SAGNC’s data sheet, 85 were Towns.

It must be noted that the data gathered from the SAGNC suggests that either the old name of the town was not recorded or the town was new and, therefore, was then given a name.

Data collection seems to have improved after 2010. The full list of the 85 name changes or new names is given in the table below.

YearOld nameNew nameProvince
2000Chief A Luthuli ParkGauteng
2000N12 Highway ParkGauteng
2001BoshoekNorth West
2004HartbeesfonteinLethabongNorth West
2004ThembaniEastern Cape
2005Magobe Extension 1Northern Cape
2005TabankuluNtabankuluEastern Cape
2005PirintsuPirintshoEastern Cape
2005Crystal Park Ext 17SummerfieldsGauteng
2006Evergreen Lifestyle EstateMpumalanga
2006Orlando EkhayaGauteng
2006Aspen LakesGauteng
2006BhishoEastern Cape
2006Boardwalk MeanderFree State
2006CentaneEastern Cape
2006DutywaEastern Cape
2006Early DawnNorth West
2006Hammanskraal WestFree State
2006Lakeside EstatesEastern Cape
2006Midstream EstateFree State
2006MthathaEastern Cape
2006NgcoboEastern Cape
2006NgqamakhweEastern Cape
2006NgqikaEastern Cape
2006Ormonde ViewGauteng
2006WigwamNorth West
2006MvaneEastern Cape
2010Piet RitiefeMkhondoMpumalanga
2010MafikengMahikengNorth West
2011NokakgoloFree State
2012Petrus SteynMamafubeduFree State
2015JamestownJames CalataEastern Cape
2015Aliwal NorthMaletswaiEastern Cape
2015ClocolanHlohlolwaneFree State
2016Lady FrereCacaduEastern Cape
2016QueenstownKomaniEastern Cape
2016Mount FrereKwaBhacaEastern Cape
2016Mount AyliffMaXesibeniEastern Cape
2016ElliotKhowaEastern Cape
2018GrahamstownMakhandaEastern Cape
2019TshoxaEastern Cape
2021MaClear NqanqarhuEastern Cape
2021BerlinNtabozukoEastern Cape
2021King William’s TownQonceEastern Cape
2021Mount FletcherTlokoengEastern Cape
2021BrandfortWinnie MandelaFree State
2022PomeroySolomon LindaKwaZulu-Natal
2022Morgan’s BayGxarhaEastern Cape
2022CradockEnxubaEastern Cape
2023Fort BeaufortKwaMaqomaEastern Cape
2023Somerset EastKwaNojoliEastern Cape

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;
  • Queenstown to Komani; and
  • Grahamstown to Makhanda.

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 in the past and in 2023.

In a recent parliamentary Q&A, the minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture noted that the total number of applications received and gazetted from the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Committee (ECPGNC) since the start of the geographical names process in the Republic of South Africa is 312, which includes the various towns.

Only one application was not approved.

The minister explained that applications not approved were the city name changes from East London to KuGompo (applied for in 2020) and, initially, the changing of the name Grahamstown to Makhanda.

However, after consultations, Grahamstown’s name change was returned to the minister, approved, and then gazetted on 29 June 2018.

More on the way

More recently, the 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.

Additionally, according to the SAGNC, 58 Geographic Name Applications are still being processed, meaning plenty more name changes are coming to South Africa, some of them more than likely to be Towns.

However, the proposed changes have been met with pushback from the affected communities, and political parties in the province have questioned the process used to advance them.

Additionally, at the end of last month, a host of name changes were pushed through as part of the department’s last round of name changes in South Africa before the end of the 2023 financial year.

Among the gazetted changes are Ladysmith in KZN to uMnambithi and Kirkwood in the Eastern Cape to Nqweba.

Read: Massive property, electricity and water rate hikes expected to hit major cities in South Africa soon

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