What’s in a name? R35.6 million, Mbombela finds

2014-10-12 06:00

The Mbombela municipality won a court battle to rechristen Mpumalanga’s capital city – but now it doesn’t have money to go ahead with the renaming.

So for now, Nelspruit remains Mbombela. It has been six months since the Mpumalanga department of arts and culture won a high court bid against the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism.

The chamber rejected the planned name change, which was gazetted in 2010. It argued in court that “Nelspruit” was not an offensive name and had become a global brand worth millions of rands after the 2010 World Cup.

Nelspruit is an Afrikaans word meaning Nel’s stream. It was named after the Nel family, which founded the town in 1905.

KLCBT estimated that changes to company registration records, signage, websites, business cards and letterheads, among other things, would cost businesses about R350 million.

The chamber lost in court – but Nelspruit is going nowhere, for now.

Mbombela municipal spokesperson Joseph Ngala said the money would have to be budgeted in the 2015/16 financial year and council had already approved the amendment of general plans.

“We’ve already changed certain things that don’t need money like our electronic documents. Road signs will be the [South African National Roads Agency’s] responsibility while general plans, title deeds need us and council has to approve the R35.6 million budget to change those,” Ngala said.

Ngala could not, however, say where the council would get the extra money or what projects it would have to sacrifice.

“When Mbombela was gazetted as the new name, there was an objection and we had to wait until the matter was finalised in court. It must be borne in mind that projects have to be in the plan first before we can budget since we collect revenue from taxes. We don’t start by having a bag full of money first and then decide to spend,” he added.

In fact Mbombela’s “bag of money” is pretty empty.

It started this financial year owing its creditors R207 million and Eskom R109 million.

Chamber president Nora Fakude-Nkuna said: “We fought the renaming because of the costs it would force business to incur in this slow economic climate. “There’s nothing more we can do about the court’s ruling. We can only hope that Mbombela will find a way to carry its costs without raising taxes and businesses will deal with their own,” Fakude-Nkuna said.

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