Name changing won’t erase history

2019-08-07 06:00
Thapelo Molefi Social Observer

Thapelo Molefi Social Observer

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Given our challenges, are name changes really necessary?

South Africa is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with the highest number of white people on the entire continent.

The country has a very painful past for all races.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressed this, and tried to forge forgiveness between citizens.

Who can forget the role the likes of Nelson Mandela played in forging unity among the citizens of this country?

From the mid- to the late 1990s, the spirit of the rainbow nation was established amongst most of the different races.

During that period, the democratic government proposed name changes to significant places in the country.

Painful as the history of our country was, it is our history.

I therefore see no benefit in spending money – money that could have been used elsewhere to uplift the lives of South Africans – to rename places and institutions.

If places have to be renamed, why not first change the name South Africa?

After all, many other African countries changed their names after attaining their independence – Tanganyika became Tanzania, Basutu­land changed its name to Lesotho, and the Republic of Upper Volta is now known as Burkina Faso.

South Africa retained its name.

Yet I still believe that thousands, if not millions, of rands are being spent on insignificant name changes.

Case in point: the recent renaming of the Dr Hendrik Verwoerd Secondary School to the Rietondale Secondary School in Pretoria.

We all know the school was named after former prime minister Dr Hendrick Frensch Verwoed.

Cruel and divisive as he was, Verwoerd is a part of our history. Removing his name will not remove that painful part of our history.

Ironically, learners are still taught about him in schools.

My argument is this: If the concept of the Republic of South Africa was Verwoerd and his colleagues’ brainchild, One of my arguments was that the conceptualizing of the Republic of South Africa as we know was the brainchild of Verwoerd and his colleagues at the time, why don’t we change that as well?

I stand to be corrected, but the Rand as we know it was established during his tenure.

What I am trying to emphasise, is that if we got used to the name South Africa, why can’t we get used to our history?

I am of the view that politicians must never be choosy about our history, but look at all the facts collectively.

Most importantly, they must realise that name changes – those of schools in particular – will never improve the lives of ordinary South Africans.

Presently, most South Africans are jobless.

The government should therefore channel every cent into projects that are aimed at solving the problem and improving lives.

The new South Africa needs schools that are compliant to norms and standards.

We need to have statues of our heroes and heroines who played a role in the building of this democracy.

Focusing only on the past is destructive – we can never remove the painful past, even if we remove the statues.

Why doesn’t our new history coincide with the past without destroying it?

I must emphasise that we are a special country.

All races need to work together to take this beautiful country to greater heights.

We all love this country and want it to prosper, for we know no other country.

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