E Cape in name change spotlight

Port Elizabeth - Bushman's River apparently offends, Colchester is not unique enough and Coega has been misspelt.

Places such as Port Elizabeth, Queenstown, East London, King William's Town and Grahamstown had names before the colonial time that were not documented on any maps.

These place names' days are numbered if suitable suggestions as to how the names should be changed are made by the public.

Public meetings in Queenstown and the Bay have been scheduled by the Eastern Cape Geographical Names Council (ECGNC) for Thursday and Friday.

These meetings aim to inform the public about mechanisms involved in the changing of place names, river names and the names of educational institutions.

Similar meetings were recently held in Limpopo and North-West provinces, and a national conference will be held in Gauteng in December.

According to Fumi Dyubhele, chairperson of the ECGNC, the council can only make suggestions about place-name changes.

The minister of arts and culture, Dr Pallo Jordan, is the one who will eventually decides whether to ratify the name changes.

Dyubhele said very little has been done to date to change place names in the Eastern Cape. "The public has never really been made aware of the mechanisms they have to propose name changes," he said.

The council was founded in December last year, but Dyubhele said no proposals have been received from the public to date. The names of post offices and the University of Port Elizabeth were, however, changed after these institutions applied to have them changed.

Loyiso Mpumlwana, spokesperson for the South African Geographical Naming Society (SAGNS) said the aim of the process is not to punish but to mend injustices of the past.

"Many places used to have other names in the past, but these were never formally acknowledged.

"Port Elizabeth was, for instance, formerly known as Cacadu, East London as Gompo, King William's Town as Qonce and Ngaqura became Coega," he said.

He also said they are looking at the international standardisation of place names in conjunction with the United Nations.

"We cannot have an East London here while there is already an East London in London. Colchester is also already a place in England."

Name changes could have a very positive effect on tourism, said Phumeza Mgxashe from Nelson Mandela Bay tourism.

Since the renaming of the Port Elizabeth-Uitenhage-Despatch region to Nelson Mandela Bay last year, it has been easier for tourists to identify the region.

"If one uses the name Nelson Mandela, people immediately know it is in South Africa, because Mandela hails from here. Port Elizabeth could, however, be in any former British colony," she said.

The spelling of 25 towns and rivers were corrected in March last year to reflect the original spelling.

Most of these are located in the former Transkei and Ciskei. In this way, Bisho became Bhisho, Umtata became Mthatha and the river mouth Cintsa became Chintsa.

The Eastern Cape's name will remain untouched for now. The decision on such a name change rests with the premier, Nosimo Balindlela.

Her spokesperson, Masiza Mazizi, told Die Burger on Wednesday that it is not on the agenda at the moment. "Issues such as poverty and corruption should enjoy preference, Mazizi said.

For more information visit the SAGNS website at

  • http://sagns.dac.gov.za
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