Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on the strides made in Transforming the Country’s Heritage Landscape

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05 Oct 2018

The changing of the name of Grahamstown to Makhanda has once more raised questions on the purpose of this crucial exercise. Minister Nathi Mthethwa wishes to advise members of the press and South Africans as a whole, that the final determination made on Tuesday 2 October (i.e. the new name “Makhanda”) is only but one example of the Department of Arts and Culture’s (DAC) progress in its mandate and commitment to deepen the transformation of the heritage landscape. This deepening of the transformation of the heritage landscape has oft been a process- to paraphrase Amilcar Cabral- with difficulties that cannot be masked, and at times, without easy victories to claim.

“Phenomenal strides that have been made in the transformation of the heritage landscape through the identification and building of new heritage commemorative structures such as monuments, memorials and museums. Furthermore, the manner in which the naming landscape has been reconfigured through unearthing and reclaiming our precolonial histories and heritages has been deeply symbolic and of great significance- and this will reverberate throughout this land for generations to come. During these (name change) processes, we continue to encounter resistance to change which does not surprise because as a people we subscribe to different ideological orientations. However, what compatriots need to perpetually be mindful of is that name changes form part of writing a history that was subject to erasure, and this history must be told through transforming the heritage landscape, in order to embed it in our collective memory. This is of utmost importance in validating a people’s humanity, and to validate theirs and their predecessors and ancestors’ identities and experiences.”

Hon Nathi Mthethwa

Below are the names of towns that have been changed in the post-democratic dispensation and in more recent years:


  1. Bela-Bela (Formerly Warmbaths)
  2. Lephalale (Formerly Ellisras)
  3. Modimolle (Formerly Nylstroom)
  4. Mokopane (Formerly Potgietersrus)
  5. Musina  (Formerly Messina)        
  6. Polokwane (Formerly Pietersburg)
  7. Senwabarana (Formerly Bochum)
  8. Mogwadi (Formerly Dendron)
  9. Morebeng (Formerly Soekmekaar)
  10. Modjadjiskloof   (Formerly Duiwelskloof)
  11. Mookgophong   (Formerly Naboomspruit)



  1. eMalahleni (Formely Witbank)
  2. eManzana (Formerly Badplaas)
  3. KwaDukuza (Formerly Stanger).
  4.  Mashishing (Formerly Lydenburg)
  5. Makhazeni (Formerly Belfast)
  6. Emgwenya (Formerly Waterval Boven)
  7. eNtokozweni (Formerly Machadodorp)
  8. Mbombela (Formerly Nelspruit)
  9. eMkhondo (Formerly Piet Retief)
  10. Thuli Fakude (Formerly Leandra)



  1. Mamafubedu (Formerly Petrus Steyn)
  2. Hlohlolwane (Formerly Clocolan)
  3. Intabazwe (Formerly Harrismith)



  1. James Calata (Formerly Jamestown)         
  2. Maletswai (Formerly Aliwal North)
  3. Cacadu  (Formerly Lady Frere)
  4. Komani (Formerly Queenstown)
  5. Khowa (Formerly Elliot).
  6. KwaBhaca (Formerly Mount Frere).
  7. MaXesibeni (Formerly Mount Ayliff)
  8. Dikeni   (Formerly Alice)
  9. Makhanda (Formerly Grahamstown)



  1. eMthonjaneni (Formerly Melmoth)

The process of the standardisation of geographical names is people-driven and it starts at local level of government then upwards to the province and culminates in the Ministry for approval or rejection.  The Act does not provide for the Minister and the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) to directly initiate name changes hence we rely on applications from the public and municipalities.  According to the “South African Geographical Names Council Act “(Act No. 118 of 1998) the Minister of Arts and Culture is responsible for the approval of geographical names after receiving recommendations from the SAGNC. 

It is important to note that of late these processes are now dominated by anti-transformation forces or extremist’s elements who disregard existing guidelines, legislation and the constitution.  This has contributed negatively to the pace of standardisation of geographical names (e.g. public participation on possible name change of Cape Town International Airport).

All names that are approved by the Minister are published in the Government Gazette for the perusal of the public and interested stakeholders.  The Minister’s decision can be challenged within 30 days of approval or publication of names on the Government Gazette.  A written complaint can then be directed to the Minister to respond in writing on the complaint and reasons for the decision. It is only thereafter, upon receiving further advice from the SAGNC, and reflecting on the authorative documents that guide the process (i.e. applicable legislation and the Constitution), that the Minister makes a final determination on the name change.


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