In a Government Gazette published on Tuesday, 23 February 2021, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthetwa, announced numerous name changes to cities, towns, and airports situated in the Eastern Cape—with the most notable being that of Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha).
Other prominent changes include Uitenhage’s name being amended to Kariega and Port Elizabeth Airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport. While highlighting names changes, the gazette also includes spelling corrections for existing geographical names and official registrations of new names.
When looking at the situation, one cannot help but wonder about the goal versus the costs involved. Also, can KwaZulu-Natal expect similar changes to be made to our cities, airports and beloved towns?
Political analyst Xolani Dube explains the recent developments are not about the costs involved. Instead, it is about something much more profound and meaningful. “When you look at African nations, postcolonialism, name changes play an essential role in restoring the dignity of the natives of the area.”
He stresses this is especially important when looking at the past atrocities and how people suffered under the previous regimes.
However, he points out this does not mean an egocentric motive is not behind the current name changes. “I feel more focus should go into social cohesion, employment and the economy.” After all, as Dube highlights, what is the purpose of re-naming major cities and landmarks when people are still struggling and facing the same challenges they faced under apartheid and colonialism?
He adds, “We first need to exhaust our efforts in education, social cohesion and economic development before looking at name changes.”
As for possible name changes in KZN, Dube points out that before the Government even considers it, they need to focus on what is important for the country and province. “If you look at Pietermaritzburg, it is overcrowded, while other areas in KZN are becoming ghost towns.”
With this in mind, Dube elucidates, while he feels name changes do play an essential role in regaining one’s culture, our country’s people’s very livelihood is more relevant. “What is in a name, if we are still struggling?”
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