Name change meeting complaints

2010-03-24 18:08

Johannesburg - The Afrikanerbond and Freedom Front Plus raised concerns over the public hearings on Gauteng name changes on Thursday, which appear not to have been advertised.

The Afrikanerbond suggested the outcome had been predetermined.

"This was confirmed by the chairperson of the provincial portfolio committee which stated that the 'transformation' of place names has been decided by the ANC at its national conference and is now implemented by government. Therefore this public consultation process is under suspicion," said spokesperson Jan Bosman.

They also felt the struggle history of the ANC would be recognised as being the only real history of South Africa, and that any minority group would not be acknowledged.

They would nevertheless put their proposals to the committee for consideration and discuss the matter further with the ANC leadership.

Not informed

Freedom Front Plus MPL Jaco Mulder said he only became aware of the hearings on Wednesday afternoon and was surprised he had not been informed because of his position in the legislature.

"I am a member of the Gauteng legislature and we never received an invitation," he said, adding that if he had known about it he would have sent someone to contribute.

He has already complained to arts and culture MEC Nelisiwe Moerane and has suggested that she expand the hearings as the Birchwood Hotel in Kempton Park was also not an ideal venue.

On Friday lobby group Afriforum will be in the North Gauteng High Court to oppose the change of name of Pretoria to Tshwane.

Earlier, in a speech prepared for delivery, Moerane explained the significance of standardising names and restoring many place names to their original spelling.

Practical benefits to name changes

She said some people said changing names was whimsical and wasteful, but explained that standardisation had many practical benefits.

It would also go towards righting the actions of early settlers and colonial powers who ignored historical and cultural heritage when changing a place name.

The hearings follow an instruction from Cabinet that the department of arts and culture, through the SA Geographical Names Council, consult the public on name changes.

The matter is also covered in the United Nations Guidelines on the Standardisation of Geographical Names and forms part of a UN resolution.

The resolution includes the avoidance of more than one name for one feature, the elimination of objectionable names and the avoidance of repetition of names.

"Apart from the fact that place names identify and reflect culture, heritage and languages, the correct use of place names has practical benefits to local, national and international communities."

It would be difficult to distribute food for example in a war-torn country, or during a natural disaster if a town is known by different names.

Older names were "lost in the mists of time" and this part of Africa was "littered" with name changes that reflect its turbulent past.