Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s name may one day replace that of William Nicol in Johannesburg. But don’t expect a quick process. The flawed Winnie motion passed by council last month could be null and void.
A motion is not the correct way to change road names in Johannesburg. The city’s policy on the naming of streets and public places says renaming shall take place only through a council resolution, not a motion. There are quibbles about which parts of William Nicol Drive, if any, the city is competent to rename. The road stretches from Hyde Park to beyond Diepsloot. William Nicol north of the N1 is not within the city’s jurisdiction.
City policy, in line with the SA Geographical Names Council Act, 1998 states: “Only in rare cases should people’s names be used and any submissions/petitions to name after a person must be accompanied by a detailed motivation and profile, indicating why the specific person is worthy of the honour”. This didn’t happen.
There has been zero public participation. City policy requires the renaming process to be “clear, inclusive and consultative”. Instead, there’s been a muddle. Few have any idea what happened. The ANC proposed a motion renaming Orlando Stadium after Winifred (misspelt Winfred) Madikizela-Mandela. The EFF proposed an amendment, renaming William Nicol Drive after her.
The DA said there should be public participation, but this was rejected by the ANC and EFF. The ANC have 121 councillors, DA 104, EFF 30. The DA was outvoted.
The DA has no problem honouring Madikizela-Mandela. Last month councillors bestowed on her the Freedom the City.
According to city policy, the minimum public consultation requirements for renaming include: In the case of local roads … the following must be undertaken:
- Consultation with the ward councillor/s;
- The placement of public notices on site and at prominent strategic positions such as schools, clinics and libraries, etc;
- The application should also lie open for inspection for 28 days from the first date of placement of the public notices at an office of the responsible body or an office easily accessible to the public.
- At least one public meeting, the extent of which should be in keeping with the size, functional range, cultural significance and/or visual prominence of the feature being named.
As ward councillor for the first few kilometres of William Nicol, I wasn’t consulted. Nor were councillors further north, nor any of our ward structures. People must have their say. The constitution, and much local government legislation, envisions participatory government. The renaming of such an important route must be more widely canvassed.
I recently completed a 20-page Wits School of Governance assignment on public participation in local government. Last year, I did a slightly shorter one at the University of Johannesburg on the role of public participation in strengthening local democracy.
I am passionate about public participation. The Winnie motion is an attempt to short-circuit public participation. People must not accept it.