Proposed Pretoria name change slated
Pretoria - Political parties and civic rights bodies have condemned reported plans to rename Pretoria as Tshwane before the end of 2012.
The groups reacted to Tshwane metro Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa's assertion on Monday that Pretoria and 21 of its streets would be renamed irrespective of the cost or the opposition to the move.
Civic rights group AfriForum's lawyer Willie Spies said it made "no sense" to rename Pretoria, while Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) spokesperson Conrad Beyers said Ramokgopa's statement was simply a smokescreen to deflect criticism from poor service delivery.
The Democratic Alliance's Tshwane spokesperson Elmarie Linde said his statements were part of an African National Congress tactic to deflect criticism over allegations of inefficiency and corruption.
"Time and again, when the ANC is with its back against the wall, name changes appear from nowhere," Linde said in a statement.
Ramokgopa made the remarks at the unveiling of the names of 13 victims on the city's Wall Of Names at Freedom Park. The 13 were shot dead during a 1985 protest against high rentals.
Linde said: "Changing a name will not put bread on our people's tables, neither will it create jobs, neither will it fix the billing crisis."
She said Pretoria was one of 19 municipalities and town councils that had been incorporated into the Tshwane metropolitan municipality.
"Pretoria will always be Pretoria, it is part of our country and our city heritage," Linde said.
She said the DA was in favour of renaming streets in tribute to those who died in the Mamelodi Massacre, but street renaming would be opposed by the DA until all streets and townships had been named.
She said too many people still had no proper street names for their addresses.
An example was Soshanguve's Ward 37, where Extension 20 had been on hold since 2005 due to the delay in street naming.
"Without a physical address, one cannot open a bank account, apply for loans or even have a cellphone account," Linde said.
This was an infringement of people's right to belong, she said.
Spies said AfriForum would send a letter to Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile on Tuesday afternoon to warn him not to accept Ramokgopa's name change attempts.
"It simply makes no sense to want to give a new name to Pretoria, one of a great many places within a mega municipal area".
He said AfriForum had previously informed Mashatile that any attempt to proclaim the name Tshwane would be met with a court application.
Beyers said: "The mayor had at the time of his inauguration undertaken not to focus on an emotional issue such as the changing of names, but rather on service delivery.
"Now that he is experiencing criticism with regards to service delivery, he is trying to cover it up by falling back on populist sentiments of the ANC."
He said it was ironic that Ramokgopa had made these "polarising statements" at Freedom Park, which was intended as a monument for reconciliation.
While the FF Plus believed a settlement on the name change was possible, Beyers said Ramokgopa's rhetoric would "force all parties back to the political trenches".