How to name a public space in South Africa

The City of Cape Town’s Naming Committee has this week, recommended the Memorialisation Policy to the city’s executive mayor, Patricia de Lille.

The aim of the Memorialisation Policy is to provide guidance in decision-making when the City has to deal with requests for new memorials on City-owned land or on land that is managed by the City.

It comes after UCT student, Chumani Maxwele,  threw human faeces onto the Cecil Rhodes statue at the university in March, in protest of colonial figures on campus. His actions ignited a countrywide campaign whereby a number of statues were targeted by protestors.

In April 2015, following a UCT Council vote, the statue was removed.

In accordance with the new proposed policy, any person, organisation or community may submit a proposal for a new memorial – be it a statue, public artwork, memorial plaque, mural, garden, square, wall, building, commemorative event or lecture – to the office of the executive mayor, who will table the proposal for consideration to the Naming Committee.

In March, Cape Town recommended names for seven footbridges within the city.

The Naming Committee recommended that the seven bridges crossing Nelson Mandela Boulevard and Rhodes Drive be named as follows:

Suggested bridge names
Suggested bridge names
# Recommended Name History
1 Father John Oliver ​Father John Oliver was an Anglican priest from District Six who passed away in 2013. He founded the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative and spent years building bridges between the different faiths, highlighting our similarities rather than our differences.
2 Father Basil van Rensburg Father Basil van Rensburg was a South African Catholic priest who gained international recognition for his fight against the apartheid regime’s forced removal of the people of District Six. He mobilised public opinion against the mass removals, writing to newspapers and holding public meetings. He was born in Woodstock in 1930 and passed away in 2002, aged 71.
3 Taliep Pietersen Taliep Petersen was a well-known and loved singer, composer and director of a number of popular musicals. He worked with David Kramer, with whom he won the Laurence Olivier Award – the highest honour in British theatre, considered to be the theatre industry’s equivalent of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
4 Tuan Guru Imam Abdullah Ibn Qadhu Abdus Salaam, known as Tuan Guru, is regarded as the Father of Islam in South Africa. Tuan Guru was a prince from Tidore in the Trinate Islands and a descendant of the Sultan of Morocco. He was banished by the Dutch invaders to the Cape in 1780 and was incarcerated on Robben Island for 12 years until 1792. After his release, he married Khadija van de Kaap. While on Robben Island, he wrote several copies of the Holy Qur’an from memory, possibly the first Qur’an in South Africa.
5 Dawid Kruiper Dawid Kruiper was a traditional healer and leader of the Khomani San in the Kalahari. He was well known for his role in the movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy II’. Kruiper spoke for the rights of indigenous people to the United Nations in 1994, and led the way for successful land claims for the San People in South Africa, culminating in the restoration of 40 000 hectares of land in 1999.
6 ​|a!kunta |a!kunta (or Klaas Stoffel) was the first contributor to the Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd Archive of /xam and !kun texts. He arrived in Mowbray on 29 August 1870 and stayed until October 1873. He was originally from an area called the ‘Strondbergen’ and belonged to a group of !xam who lived on the plains. He contributed some narratives and a large number of words and sentences to the archive.
7 Ingrid Jonker ​The iconic South African poet who drowned at the age of 31 in Sea Point. Her poem ‘Die Kind’ was read out by former President Nelson Mandela during the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament in May 1994.

The process

After the city recommendation, a public participation process takes place, providing residents and interested parties with the opportunity to comment on the proposals and to air their views.

The initial recommendation followed a public participation process conducted in November 2013 and February 2014, during which the public was asked to propose names for the unnamed footbridges.

This process was supported by a subsequent analysis by the City’s Public Participation Unit to determine which of the over 2,000 name proposals that were received indeed complied with the City’s Naming Policy.

As many as 638 compliant naming proposals – ranging from well-known South Africans to general names honouring our rich cultural heritage and fauna and flora – were considered by the Naming Committee, and then whittled down to seven.

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How to name a public space in South Africa