Blyde River Canyon is no more

2005-05-30 17:08

Nelspruit - Mpumalanga's most-important international tourism attraction, the Blyde River Canyon, is to be renamed.

The canyon is the third-largest in the world and is South Africa's fourth most-visited tourist attraction, drawing almost a million visitors a year.

Provincial authorities confirmed on Monday the canyon would have to be renamed because the Blyde River was renamed the Motlatse River last week.

Approval for the river's name change was granted only after in-depth research by the provincial geographical names committee (PGNC) and the Pan-South African language board.

Both bodies confirmed that the new name was the original pre-colonial MaPulane name for the river. Although Pulane is not one of South Africa's 11 official languages, it is closely related to Pedi, and means "a river that is always full".

'All that's needed is new signs'

"There were initial concerns that we should rather use the Pedi version of the name, Motlatsa, but detailed research by academics confirms that the Pulane version would be the correct one," said Mpumalanga PGNC chairman John Skhosana.

"Approval has been granted for the new name, and all that is left is for new sign board to be put up."

The name change was opposed by local Afrikaner cultural bodies, which argued that the name Blyde River, which translates into 'River of Joy' had no racist or other offensive connotations and was instead named in memory of a significant historical event.

A group of women Voortrekker pioneers camped in the area while their men scouted ahead for routes to the Mozambican coast.

When the men failed to return, the women named the river at their campsite the Treur River ('River of Sorrow').

The women broke camp and began pressing ahead on their own, only to be met by the full and unscathed scouting party on the banks of the next river, Blyde River.

The two rivers join near the historical meeting place, at the world-famous Bourkes Luck Potholes, before plunging into the Blyde River Canyon.

"We considered the historical argument, but the fact remains that the original inhabitants, the MaPulane, were there first and named the river Motlatse," said Skhosana.

The South African Place Name Council last week approved two other place-name changes for Mpumalanga rivers.

Blood River changes name

Louis' Creek near the suger-growing town of Malelane has been renamed Ekhandizwe.

The Crocodile River, which is one of Mpumalanga's two largest and which flows through the provincial capital, has been changed into the Siswati version of the word, Umgwenya.

In neighbouring Limpopo, the Olifant's River, has been renamed Lepelle River, Koedoes River has been renamed Modketzi, Hout River becomes Mogwadi, the Dwars River becomes Mononono, the Brandboontjies River the Mosukudutzi, Blood River becomes Mulaudzi and Sand River becomes the Polokwane River.

The names have been submitted to Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan for final ratification.