Renaming has only just begun, says Mthethwa

Renaming has only just begun, says Mthethwa

Rhodes University in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. Photo: Ru.ac.za/S Smith

South Africans can expect more name changes in the coming years, following the Arts and Culture department’s decision to rename Grahamstown.

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.

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.

But the name change has been met with derision on social media by people including columnist and ex-DA politician Gareth van Onselen.

Classic FM DJ, actor and playwright Peter Terry told Twitter that the name change had been previously democratically rejected.

A man, called Graham, complained about the name-change, while award-winning journalist Graeme Rauby, of Heart FM, disagreed, saying that Makhanda is a “fantastic name” for the town.




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