Renaming outcry

2008-08-13 00:00

The latest from the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) is a call for Amanzimtoti to be renamed “Andrew Zondoville”. Zondo was, it will be recalled, a teenage ANC activist who planted a bomb in the Sanlam Centre in 1985. Five people, including three children, died, and in 1986 he was sentenced to death for the murders. His name was given to the former Kingsway Drive (now Andrew Zondo Drive) and has been recommended as a new name for iLovu Primary School. Some people are asking why we should commemorate the life and actions of this young killer of innocents. So it’s no wonder indignation is now running high — particularly as “Amanzimtoti”, although it should perhaps be given some linguistic correction, is a descriptive Zulu name.

No one would deny, of course, that apartheid destroyed many lives, and that the slow process of recovery may be eased by the changing of names — of streets, of buildings, of institutions — which would eliminate references to the architects and implementers of the apartheid system and replace them with names that were either neutral (changing Verwoerdburg to Centurion) or of historical and struggle importance (the reintroduction of indigenous names and the renaming of the Port Elizabeth Municipality for Nelson Mandela). Such changes are entirely fair, for just as those responsible for the apartheid system ignored the heritage of most South Africans, so, now, is it right that at least some aspects of the apartheid heritage should be eclipsed. Pietermaritzburg’s name changes may have caused initial dissatisfaction in some quarters, but, especially as compared with the crude and insensitive changes foisted on Durban, were made with care and consideration, with every effort to be inclusive and yet not to slight any segment of the population.

The worrying aspect of the ANCYL’s promotion of the name of Andrew Zondo, as with so many of its recent utterances, is that it stems from an organisation whose members include South Africa’s future leaders. They’re young, of course, but their wild rhetoric and childish demands go beyond the vigour and intemperateness of youth which inevitably mellows with time. Instead, with its constant references to consultation with “our community” and “our people” the ANCYL makes it clear that it’s pandering to the most basic instincts of black South Africans and that it regards the notion of a multicultural South African democracy with contempt.

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