Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has responded to those who have complained about the department’s decision to rename Grahamstown, saying that it is just one of many towns with a name that he believes violates the constitution.
It was reported in The Citizen yesterday that if the renaming, which has been gazetted by the department, goes according to plan the town will soon be called Makhanda, after a Xhosa warrior.
The town is currently undergoing its 44th National Arts Festival.
Festival CEO Tony Lancaster has complained in the past about being “frustrated and angry with crumbling infrastructure, scarce resources, the lack of public toilets in the CBD and patchy waste removal, the seeming lack of political will to make things right” on the part of the municipality, suggesting that its name is only one of Grahamstown’s many challenges.
— Dj Rayzar (@RayzarBlade1) June 30, 2018
Departmental spokesperson Asanda Magaqa told EWN that this is just one of many towns that will be renamed.
“We cannot prove ourselves as a committed government if we retain names such as Grahamstown whose name is captured as one of the most brutal in history”, sad Magaqa.
The department said on Friday that there had been a 20-year call for the name change, which is going ahead because some people are opposed to the painful history the founder of Grahamstown, Colonel John Graham, epitomised.
Graham is a figure who was praised by the British 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”, said Mthethwa’s statement.
Congrats South Africa's Makhanda: 19th century Xhosa warrior led attack on British garrison in Grahamstown, home of Rhodes University. Now Grahamstown is changing name to Makhanda. pic.twitter.com/KvCEkjCS9v
— Bongani Tau (@SimplyBongani) June 30, 2018
But the name change has been met with derision on social media by people including columnist and ex-DA politician Gareth van Onselen.
Grahamstown, run into the ground, destroyed by corruption, hollowed out by incompetence, to the point that the water is too polluted to drink; dirty, broken and bankrupt, is to have its name changed to Makhanda. Really taught colonialism a lesson there. https://t.co/vbPL6XqzaE
— Gareth van Onselen (@GvanOnselen) June 29, 2018
My brother has lived in Grahamstown for 63 years. As he says, "[the name change] has been democratically rejected about four times. When democracy fails, resort to dictatorship."
— Peter Terry (@PeterTerry3) June 29, 2018
Classic FM DJ, actor and playwright Peter Terry told Twitter that the name change had been previously democratically rejected.
Does this mean I'll have to change my first name? I was born in, and named after, Grahamstown . https://t.co/EeNaB0grIi
— Grahame Hall (@grahameh) June 30, 2018
When someone asks my name to write it down, and they spell "GRAHAM" instead of what it is, I take great pride in correcting them. But, they end up pronouncing it as "GRAM".
— Rauby (@GraemeRauby) June 30, 2018