People around the world will probably soon be calling Grahamstown by a different name.
This was the decision gazetted by the department of arts and culture, which proposed the name Makhanda.
The department said there had been a 20-year call for the name change. It said the name was changed due to some people being opposed to the painful history the founder of Grahamstown, Colonel John Graham, epitomised.
“It is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that recommended the renaming of geographic features be a form of ‘symbolic reparation’ to address an unjust past,” Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said in a statement.
“Makhanda” was a Xhosa warrior, philosopher, prophet and military man who fought against colonialism in battles, including one where he led an attack against the British garrison at Grahamstown in 1819.
The minister said the reparations included changing the names of 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 most vicious of the British commanders on that frontier, whose campaigns were executed with, in his own words, ‘A proper degree of terror’,” added Mthethwa.
At the time, British authorities praised Graham for “breaking the back of the natives”.
“The battles he waged were not only against soldiers. Everyone, including women, children and the elderly would not be spared. Even post-battle, he and his soldiers would employ the ‘scorched earth policy’ against those he had already brought violence and misery against, by burning their fields and killing their cattle; starving them into submission, before killing them.
“This is the man that ‘Grahamstown’ has been named after.”