Minister Pallo Jordan on the name-change of Lydenberg to Mashishing

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06 Sep 2006

What is demonstrably true is that literally thousands of geographical names were imposed on the country by the colonial powers who governed South Africa and portions of it over the last three and half centuries. They did this without regard to the pre-existing names, let alone the sensibilities of the indigenous people, who in most instances continued to use the original names. There are also the numerous instances where colonial administrators misheard indigenous names, but notwithstanding imposed their misconstruction of those names. There are some places that were renamed to celebrate the military victories of White settlers over African armies, some to memorialize European kings and Queens, some to celebrate colonial governors and soldiers.

And then, there are places that were renamed, and given names that are offensive.

In the renaming of geographical features and places all these matters were taken into account : the diversity of our society, the integrity of our languages, the sensibilities of our people, and, sometimes just plain common sense.

The proposed name change of Lydenberg was done in terms of an Act of Parliament :The South African Geographical Names Council Act, of 1998.

The preamble to the enabling legislation reads:

“To establish a permanent advisory body known as the South African Geographical Names Council to advise the Minister responsible for arts and culture on the transformation and standardisation of geographical names in South Africa for official purposes; to determine its objects, functions and methods of work; and to provide for matters connected therewith.”

The relevant passage, Clause 10, of the law reads:

“10 Approval and revision of geographical names

(1) The Minister may approve or reject a geographical name recommended by the Council in terms of section 9 (1) (d).

(2) A geographical name approved or rejected by the Minister in terms of subsection (1) must be published in the Gazette.

(3) Any person or body dissatisfied with a geographical name approved by the Minister may, within one month from the date of publication of the geographical name in the Gazette, lodge a complaint in writing to the Minister.

(4) The Minister may refer the complaint to the Council for advice whether or not to reject or amend a geographical name so approved.

(5) The Minister must inform the complainant of the decision on the complaint and the reasons for the decision.”

It is of paramount importance that those, especially the leaders of the political parties who object to the changes in place names educate their members, especially those serving in legislative bodies at national, provincial and municipal levels, about the law and its provisions.

It is not the Minister who initiates or sets in motion changes of geographical names. The Minister receives recommendations from other bodies, empowered by this law, to propose those changes. Having satisfied her/himself that the provisions of the law have been conformed with, the Minister may approve or reject a proposed name change.

In this instance, the proposal by Thaba Cheweu Municipality that the name of Lydenberg be changed to Mashishing, I am satisfied that every provision of the law had been followed.

The process commenced in that the municipal council on 13 August 2005. It was debated in the council chamber, with arguments for and against tabled. There was a testing of public opinion on 18 August 2005 by the relevant local authority and their proposal was forwarded to Mpumalanga Provincial Geographical Names Committee for discussion and then to the South African Geographical Names Council. They then sent that, together with a number of others published in the government gazette of 30 June 2006 to my office for approval. I also saw the petition of objection that a delegation from the area brought to my Pretoria Office on the 28 July 2006.

Today I am formally announcing that I am approving the name change. The name of Lydenberg will be changed to Mashishing. After deliberations on the matter, I have not found any compelling reasons why the change should not go ahead.

It is now within the legal right of all stakeholders concerned to go ahead and implement the name change through signage and other forms.

This is the will of the people.

For further details, call: Sandile Memela, Spokesperson for Ministry of Arts & Culture at 082 800 3750