Name change to cost R350m

2012-06-02 09:14

The contentious process of renaming Nelspruit, Mpumalanga’s capital city, has the business community bracing for a bitter court fight to avoid incurring costs that are estimated at R350 million.

Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile in 2009 gazetted Mbombela as the new name. But the 370-member Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (LCBT) is protesting because it claims the renaming process will be too costly for Nelspruit-based businesses and accuses the Mpumalanga Geographical Names Committee of having failed to do thorough consultation.

The chamber is busy raising R400 000 to apply for an order to set the gazette aside in the North Gauteng High Court.

The costs of the namechange, explains the chamber, would have to be borne by both businesses and taxpayers.

Its spokesperson Linda Grimbeek said they reached the figure (or costs) after consulting various professionals, including auditors and lawyers, to indicate fees for the major processes of such a namechange.

“Everybody just thinks of the name boards which have to be changed. Although it is difficult to estimate exactly how many there are and what they will cost, one has to bear in mind that Nelspruit is the hub of the area with many roads leading to it from various directions, and this is why the boards alone are roughly estimated at R10 million,” said Grimbeek.

She said the biggest cost of the process will be the change of general plans, title deeds and registered bonds on the deeds.

“An estimated 90% of the deeds are bonded. Each general plan will cost R15 000 and each deed and each bond on a deed will cost R160 plus a minimum of R3 200 in legal fees, to change.

The total for this is an estimated R160 million,” said Grimbeek, adding: “The estimated cost of the boards and the deeds will be R170 million and it will be a direct cost to the Mbombela local municipality.”

The chamber believes the Mbombela local municipality would have to increase rates and taxes by 60% over and above the budgeted increase of R275 million in order to effect the new name.

Communities outside Nelspruit that are not part of the namechange, such as White River and Hazyview, would also have to incur the costs as they would be affected by the increase in rates and taxes.

An additional R20 million on taxpayers will be borne as the need to change the name would affect government departments and parastatals.

Grimbeek said the biggest concern was the 31 000 businesses registered with a Nelspruit address.

“To change just the basic stationery of a small business will cost around R5 000. This escalates considerably if a business has Nelspruit as part of its name.

“One of the LCBT members indicated that it will cost them R300 000 to change their name.

“Tourism businesses will suffer the most because of all the marketing material which they will have to reprint and change,” she added.

The provincial arts and culture spokesperson Sibongile Nkosi said the Mpumalanga Geographical Names Committee followed all due processes to re-name Nelspruit.

“We still maintain that the city will be Mbombela unless directed otherwise by the minister (Mashatile) and the coming court case,” Nkosi said.

The other reasons of the Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism for opposing the renaming are that:

»Nelspruit is only one suburb of the Mbombela local municipality, and renaming Nelspruit to Mbombela will cause unnecessary confusion as Mbombela is already recognised as the name of the municipality;

»Nelspruit is not politically offensive;

»Nelspruit as a brand is worth millions, especially after the marketing campaigns before and during the Fifa World Cup;

»The costs to business will also involve changing company registration records, signage (outdoor, print and electronic media advertising), websites and links on pages hosted elsewhere, business cards, letterheads, stationery and computer programmes; and

»Payroll programmes, Wikipedia and encyclopaedia-type websites, Google Maps and Google Earth will have to be amended.

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