Court to rule on Pretoria name change row

2013-04-18 08:10

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Pretoria - Judgment on a bid for an urgent interdict against the removal of street names in Pretoria will be given this week, the North Gauteng High Court ruled on Wednesday evening.

After a lengthy session which lasted after 21:00 in court, Judge Bill Prinsloo said he reserved his judgment until Friday.

"My predicament is that I am not sure when I will be able to give the judgment but I know that I have to do it quickly in one way or the other.

“I am reserving the judgment until Friday subject to postponing that (date) on short notice. If I find that the demands of this urgent court are so great that I can’t do it, I will let you (the parties) know,” he said.

The application, brought by AfriForum, sought interim relief pending the finalisation of a review application process regarding the decision by the city council to change the street names.

‘Open to review’

AfriForum’s legal representative, advocate Reinhard Groenewald, argued that the Tshwane metro’s decision to rename neutral streets like Zambezi Drive was questionable.

“The reason given for the street name changes was because they are offensive, a colonial legacy and a legacy of apartheid. There is no rational connection between Church Street or Zambezi Drive with those categories.

“If they (Tshwane metro) go outside their own decision, such decisions are open to review,” said Groenewald.

He said the change of street names would cause inconvenience to people as the new names were unknown and not available on maps and navigation accessories.

“If, for example, one’s relatives are on the way to Pretoria, they lose their way and they are stuck in Sefako Makgatho Drive (former Zambesi Drive). If they call you and give you the new street, that name is in no map.

“They get stuck there at 2 o’clock in a purely unsafe country. There is practical potential harm,” said Groenewald.

‘You ask’

The Tshwane metro, represented by advocate Terry Motau, SC, had initially proposed to the court that the application was not urgent and should be struck off the roll. After that bid failed, Motau then presented the municipality’s version to the court.

“My lord, if you are used to getting petrol at a Sasol garage and later (the same garage) is now called BP, is there a risk that you would get lost? The issue is not that because now Vermeulen (Street) is now called Madiba (Street) and coming from Joburg does that mean I am not going to find the court?

“We know what happens if you get to a place which you don’t know. You get to a shop, garage or a restaurant and you ask,” said Motau.

Dual names

He said suggestions that tourists and diplomats were used to the old Pretoria street names were not supported by facts.

“We tour overseas countries and we rely on tour guides. Which diplomat or tourist is lost? We do not know the facts but I am illustrating the dangers of speculation,” said Motau.

He requested the court to dismiss AfriForum’s application with costs.

Several street name signs in the capital city have been bearing dual names but recently the old street names had been vanishing from the posts.

In his state-of-the-city address earlier this month, Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the dual street name signs displayed on 27 streets in the city would now be removed, after the expiration of a set six-month period.

"We have exceeded that (six months') period. Now is the time that Lilian Ngoyi (Street) comes to life and Van der Walt (Street) goes to rest," said Ramokgopa.
Read more on:    afriforum  |  kgosientso ramokgopa  |  name changes

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