Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa fulfills all legal obligations to finalise the renaming of “Grahamstown” to “Makhanda”

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02 Oct 2018

Minister Nathi Mthethwa wishes to advise members of the press that he has made a final determination concerning the gazetted name change of Grahamstown to Makhanda.

The sequence of events that have culminated in the finalisation of this process is as follows:

  • On 29 June 2018 the Minister of Arts and Culture published in the Government Gazette No 41738 the approval of “Grahamstown” to “Makhanda” after receiving recommendation from the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC). The Ministry of Arts and Culture is on record that it has received more than 332 complaints objecting to the name change, citing reasons including the claim that the Government Gazette on the 29 June 2018 was defective because it “…did not state the fact that the public have one month to object or complain to the Minister on his 29 June 2018 decision”. Other reasons entail complaints regarding lack of consultation i.e. process, historical sentiment and nostalgia, and cost implications of the name change amongst other reasons.
  • It has been the Ministry’s stated position, as it is indeed common cause that the Government Gazette, and in this specific matter, any notice that pertains to geographic name changes is not published in isolation but is meant to be read with the “South African Geographical Names Act, 1998” (Act 118 of 1998), “Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000” (Act 3 of 2000) and the Constitution of the Country and the recourse in any administrative decision is clearly provided for by all these authoritative guiding documents.   
  • Letters objecting to the gazetted name change were acknowledged in writing by Minister Mthethwa.  
  • In his letters of acknowledgement, Minister Mthethwa advised each objector that he would refer each complaint to the SAGNC for further advice- as directed by the “South African Geographical Names Act, 1998”
  • After taking into consideration complaints, the advice of the SAGNC, and the authoritative documents cited above, the Minister carefully applied his mind and took a final decision.
  • As of Tuesday 2 October 2018, the Minister has formally began responding to each and every complainant informing them of his decision.

Minister Mthethwa now wishes to advise members of the press that following this thorough, assiduous and painstaking process he has found no just cause to withdraw the notice published in the Government Gazette on 29 June 2018 and as such the proclamation as published in the Government Gazette in question stands.

“The historical sentiments and arguments around heritage values were noted.  While it is indeed the Department of Arts and Culture’s mandate to promote and preserve our heritage- we cannot allow these sentiments to undermine government’s transformational agenda on the country’s heritage landscape. Standardisation of geographical names form part of a broader government transformation programme towards addressing the imbalances of the past, and it forms part of the symbolic reparations as recommended by the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’”

-        Hon Nathi Mthethwa

The town formerly known as “Grahamstown” is named after Lieutenant Colonel John Graham whose role in the Frontier Wars was to exercise the “maximum degree of terror” on the Xhosa natives and whose was and is still infamous for his methods to “break the back of the native” by employing the most savage means imaginable including liberally employing the “scorched earth policy” against those he conquered- burning their homes, their crops, their livestock and homes, before murdering the warriors he met in battle, and butchering even women and children in a mass extermination of a people- whose descendants can still be found in the area.

The name of John Graham is one that evokes unimaginable pain.  

What South Africans ought to know, is that the name change of the town to Makhanda is the fulfilling of the prophecy of “Ukubuya kuka Nxele (the return of Nxele)”. Makhanda was a warrior, war doctor, philosopher and prophet whose heroics in the Frontier Wars included an attack on a British garrison at the locality. Makhanda ka Nxele was imprisoned in (and would later die while escaping from) Robben Island a few years shy of some 100 years before the founding fathers of South Africa’s liberation including Govan Mbeki. Raymond Mhlaba, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Robert Sobukwe and many gallant and honourable fighters in the struggle for liberation were imprisoned there. The renaming of this town will ensure that Makhanda ka Nxele’s memory is immortalised, and rightfully so.

For further information and interview requests, please contact: Asanda Magaqa, Spokesperson for the Minister of Arts and Culture- 072 372 6807 (Mobile) ; and asandam@dac.gov.za (Email).