South Africans recently took part in the sixth democratic elections, 25 years since the inhumane apartheid regime was scrapped.
With the newly elected administration came a change which caused serious outrage – that of the name of Pretoria’s Hoërskool HF Verwoerd. The name was not changed to Nelson Mandela High School or named after any apartheid activist or architect, but rather fittingly named after the area it is situated in – Rietondale High School.
That only made sense since there was already a Rietondale Primary School and this new name was actually selected by parents who send their children there. But this is not according to some people. Instead, Gauteng MEC of education Panyaza Lesufi was called names by those who claim he is attempting to scrap their history.
There were nonsensical comments on social media such as “Idiot! What a waste of money! Focus on fixing roads and bettering the education”, while some claim they were being “ripped” of their “whole being”. These people were so outraged that suddenly they have pinned potholes, unemployment and poor service delivery on the education department.
Those who welcomed the name change were called “spineless” for opposing racism and encouraging democracy and integration. As expected, even Afrikaner rights group AfriForum jumped on the “attack Lesufi” bandwagon, with deputy CEO Ernst Roets accusing the MEC of “targeting well-functioning schools much more than fixing dysfunctional schools”.
But what Roets, his enraged supporters and Lesufi’s nemeses failed to understand, since they reacted to a headline and failed to read the content, was that the name change was actually initiated by the school. Despite the school being Afrikaans and located in a predominantly Afrikaans area, its pupils are not all Afrikaans.
Many black Pretoria pupils who are not Afrikaans-speaking equally paid fees to attend the school. Last year, the school asked for suggestions on a new name, which were contributed by pupils, teachers, parents, residents and former pupils.
The head of the school’s governing body, Olga Veldsman, emphasised that transformation was of importance and “cannot be stressed enough”. However, it appears there are those who do not care for transformation. For the past quarter of a century, South Africa has been a democratic country, something that Verwoerd, often dubbed the “father-of-apartheid” was completely against.
It was Verwoerd who vocally supported racism and apartheid. These are also the same people that often say: “Get over apartheid. Stop clinging onto the past.” But they seem highly disturbed that a school, which they do not attend and nor do their children, was no longer named after the “apartheid architect”.
How do we move on from the past when it seems so many are adamant to hold on to it? Why do some South Africans want to cling to the apartheid legacy, but publicly insult and dismiss those who call out racism and want to scrap it? Have you no shame?