Name changes planned for East London and other Eastern Cape towns

The Eastern Cape government is considering an official name change for several towns in the province as part of a programme aimed at transforming the country’s geographic landscape to be more representative of its people.

The major metropolitan of East London has been identified as one of the towns which could see a change, with KuGompo provided as an alternate name.

Other proposed changes include:

  • King William’s Town renamed to Qonce;
  • Berlin renamed to Ntabozuko;
  • East London Airport renamed to King Phalo Airport.

In 2018, the Eastern Cape town of Grahamstown officially had its name changed to Makhanda as part of the same initiative.

At the time, Arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa said that it is standard practice to change names which were not in line with the letter and spirit of the constitution.

“It is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that recommended that the renaming of geographic features be a form of ‘symbolic reparation’ to address an unjust past,” he said.

“These reparations include changing the names of geographical places. Surely we cannot prove ourselves committed (as government) to fully achieve these reparations if we retain names such as Grahamstown – named after Colonel John Graham – whose name is captured in history as being the most brutal and the most vicious of the British commanders on that frontier.”

In comparison ‘Makhanda’ – who was also known as Nxele – was a Xhosa warrior, philosopher, prophet, and military man who fought against colonialism in battles that include one where he led an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in 1819, he said.

Expensive exercise 

However, name changes have come increased scrutiny in recent years because of the attached costs associated on the country’s already strained fiscus.

The opposition Democratic Alliance said that it would oppose the ‘frivolous’ name changes in the Buffalo City Metropolitan.

“Renaming these Buffalo City Metro towns and the airport will not increase tourism, boost investment, improve service delivery, create employment or eradicate the problems residents face on a daily basis,” said the DA’s Chantel King.

“Instead of spending millions on new signage, the money should be used to improve the lives of the people of the Buffalo City Metro.”

Residents have been given 21 days to oppose or comment on the renaming of the three towns and the airport. The deadline for submissions to the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture is 21 September.

King said the DA is currently circulating a petition that we will be submitting to the Department before the petitions deadline on 17 September.

“We will not stand idly by and watch how millions of rands are wasted on frivolous name changes – money that can rather be used to improve the lives of residents,” she said.


Headline image courtesy of Buffalo City Tourism.

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Name changes planned for East London and other Eastern Cape towns