Media statement by the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture on the Transformation of South Africa’s Naming Landscape

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20 Jun 2021

On the 23rd of February 2021 the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture gazetted twenty-three names that Minister Nathi Mthethwa had approved on geographical name changes in the Eastern Cape.

These name changes included the change of names of Port Elizabeth to Gqeberha, Uitenhage to Kariega, King Williamstown to Qonce, East London Airport to King Phalo Airport and Port Elizabeth Airport to Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

The Ministry and the Department received a number of objections as follows: three boxes with petition signatures of 12 402 residents of the Nelson Mandela Bay were sent through to the office of the Executive Mayor. The Ministry also received 690 emails with objections to the name changes that had been gazetted. These objections are provided for in section 10 of the South African Geographical Names Act 118 of 1998.

The objections varied from claims that insufficient consultation was done at the local level, alternative names had been ignored, the renaming would drive away tourists, or that the money spent on renaming could be better spent on service delivery and claims that the new names have nothing to do with the people of Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality or are a duplication of existing place names.

The Minister requested the South African Geographical Names Council (SAGNC) to go through all the objections and advise the Minister accordingly. The SAGNC submitted evidence to the Minister that consultation was done throughout the province of the Eastern Cape by the Provincial Geographical Names Committee before recommendations of geographical names were submitted to the SAGNC. The SAGNC further advised the Minister that all provisions of the SAGNC Act 118 of 1998 were followed at all processes during the consideration of the names gazetted on the 23rd of February 2021.

After receiving the advice of the SAGNC and after applying his mind to the merits of all the objections, the Minister has decided that all the objections do not merit the review of the decisions on geographical names gazetted on the 23rd of February 2021. Thus, all the objections are rejected.

The Minister would like to reiterate that one of the main purposes of the SAGNC Act 118 of 1998 is to transform South Africa’s naming landscape and ensure that the names of places in South Africa reflect the languages, culture and heritage of the majority of the people of this country, instead of reflecting the country’s colonial and apartheid past.

The renaming of geographical features is also done in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which recommended the renaming of geographical features after those who contributed towards the attainment of freedom and democracy as part of symbolic reparations.

As a country, South Africa needs to accelerate the transformation of the names of places we live in so that we can bequeath to our children and grandchildren a country whose place names reflect their language, culture and heritage.

Media Enquiries:
Masechaba Khumalo: Spokesperson (Minister)
Phone: 082 858 4415

Issued by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture