Residents stick to 'old' city names

2011-08-15 12:08

Mashishing - A sign warmly greets visitors with "Welcome to Mashishing", a town where everything else indicates the name is Lydenburg.

Such geographic confusion occurs across South Africa, as old place names are replaced with new, Africanised ones.

"Officially, the name has been changed to Mashishing," the town's spokesperson Puleng Mapheto said.

But aside from a few nearby road signs, it's hard to know that the name changed five years ago. The police station, the post office, schools, the museum and store ads all refer to Lydenburg.

The Voortrekkers, descended from the first Dutch settlers, founded the town in 1850 as they fled British rule. They named the town Lydenburg, or city of suffering, because their group had been decimated by malaria.

Mashishing is what the place was traditionally called in Northern Sotho, meaning "long, green grass".

Not bothered by change

White residents, very much in the minority, are hardly bothered to make the change.

"This place is called Lydenburg. I don't know anything about Mashishing," said an employee at a coffee shop, who declined to give her name.

Gerard van de Water, who owns an antique shop, acknowledged the new name but lamented the change.

"The drive in this country is to do away with white men's names, whatever it costs," he said. "This place is no longer worthy to be called Lydenburg, anyway. Mashishing fits 100% with what the town is becoming, with all the potholes in the streets."

"It's like all towns in South Africa, they are being changed to black people's names," said Elzebe Brits, who runs a second-hand bookshop. "People are very confused! To get things more difficult, the municipality is called Thaba Chweu."

"Even black people still call this place Lydenburg," she said with a big smile.

Those whom AFP met didn't seem particularly concerned.

"The problem is that Mashishing refers to the township too," said Mosima Matlala. "Well, we say both names, it depends on the context."

As in many towns, some white residents feel the name was changed without sufficient public debate, said Jean-Pierre Celliers, curator of the Lydenburg Museum.

"We know that this area was already settled around 1650," he said, which is not counting the "Lydenburg Heads", seven terracotta figures found in the region dating from the sixth century.

"We have to redefine who has a right to have a heritage in this country," Celliers said.

Pretoria debate

The name change debate is especially fierce in the capital Pretoria, where the ANC has for now shelved efforts to dub the city Tshwane, the municipality's name.

But many other towns, mountains and rivers have been renamed in recent years. Three people in the culture ministry are tasked with compiling the public's requests for changes.

While some cities like Nelspruit and Piet Retief are, like Lydenburg, transforming in fits and starts into Mbombela and eMkhondo, other names are finally starting to take hold, especially in the northern Limpopo province, where the process started earlier.

Naboomspruit is now Mookgophong, Potgietersrus is Mokopane, and the provincial capital Pietersburg is Polokwane.

Most signs have also changed, except at post offices in towns like Modimolle, 200km north of Johannesburg.

"For us, it is still called Nylstroom. They still have not entered the new name in the system," one postal worker said.

Apparently that's not a problem.

Names don’t stick

"The sorting machines work with the post codes, mainly. The staff is trained with the name changes, anyway. They are usually very proud of knowing them," said South African Post Office spokesperson Johan Kruger.

Some names deliberately don't stick. The town of Louis Trichardt became Makhado, but a court ordered it turned back, for lack of due process.

Other changes went unnoticed. Only the weather service has adopted Mahikeng, as the name of the North West provincial capital Mafikeng. Even the local government ignores the switch.

Atlases and roadmaps have changed with the times, more or less. The old name usually appears in parentheses, but not always. And in the distance tables, some historical background helps to find Lephalale, the former Ellisras, still listed under E.

  • Corra - 2011-08-15 12:30

    Why does it feel like news24 pushes racism?

      Corra - 2011-08-15 12:37

      "White residents, very much in the minority, are hardly bothered to make the change." - Like the writer knows every single white person? Comments like these only makes the black readers angry and its not even 100% true. Readers - dont believe everything reporters tell you.

      daaivark - 2011-08-15 12:55

      Corra, perspective please. I thinkp the point is perfectly valid, and how does this promote racism? P+eople are used to calling a place something they have known all their lives. It is perfectly understandable. The article in no way promotes racism....

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 13:09

      Funny is that if you go to JHB CBD or Germiston to take a taxi, you don't get taxis to Tshwane or Polokwane - they go to Pretoria (or Pitoli) and Pietersburg. Are the name changes really in the best interests of the people? as far as I know, name changes were to remove the offensive names only. There are still street names and place names referring to the K-word, but they wanted to change names for the sake of it. Not quite sure how a town named after a chap called Pieter is considered offensive. Can't help thinking the ANC is just doing this to pee off certain people...

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 13:57

      On the positive side, Europe does the same... St Petersburg - Petrograd - Leningrad - St Petersburg - 2011-08-15 20:16

      Daaivark,jy probeer so hard om kontroversieel en anders te wees jy begin nou n pyn in die g@t te raak.Jys seker n verslagewer vir n24.Think we should ignore this troll.The end of the day we should just accept the changes,like it or not.

      DoublySalmon - 2011-08-16 13:39

      Dis omdat hulle nie self kan bou nie.

  • Sabathman 33 - 2011-08-15 12:37

    Beeeeeecos de are de rasssisst !

  • Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 13:04

    When watching SABC News in an African language, they refer to "white" names with "tribal" names. So you'll only hear eThekwini instead of Durban for example. So... why don't whites just use the old names and call them "their tribal language"? Besides, what's in a name anyway... a name won't feed you or kill you.

      omrisho - 2011-08-15 13:51

      why not just add the "E"... then it africanises it... e-jozi e-ptown e-vanderbyl e-durbs etc :) maybe that will keep the disgruntled whities happy

      Duane277 - 2011-08-16 12:16

      You just don't get it Omrisho, people do and will continue to get upset with something gets changed for no particular reason. White names, black names, whatever names, are all part of our heritage and should remain (unless of course it's obvious that the name is offensive). Yes, there are forgotten members of our country that have not received the recognition that they deserve BUT instead of taking another name away, use these forgotten names for NEW towns, cities, roads, bridges, etc. Eventually there will be enough new bits of infrastructure and everyone will be recognised, it will just take time. Problem with certain government members is that they want change now to their way of thinking, no matter who they upset

  • Badger - 2011-08-15 13:17

    Question that should be asked is how much did the name change cost and how many hungry children could have been fed with this money.

      Dan.S - 2011-08-15 14:04

      exactly!!! fair enough if street names are offensive but changing names for the sake of it and to "acricanise" everything is expensive and pointless.

  • Rudie - 2011-08-15 13:39

    Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg Lydenburg .................

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 15:34

      next trick? OK... Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg Pietersburg .............. lol

      VP - 2011-08-16 11:04

      pola whatne?

      Snys - 2011-08-16 11:19


  • HJS - 2011-08-15 13:42

    Is the following concept so tricky to understand? --- If you want to "name" something or a place, they build or create it, then you have every right to pick the name. If someone else created it or built it and gave a name, it should remain that way. What you build or establish/create you are free to name what you want to.

      Left Screwed - 2011-08-15 14:10

      A dog can mark a tree though he didn't plant it, thinking it his tree. The man who planted it sees it diffently. It is the same of the man that steals a car and changes the number plate, can he claim ownership?

  • zs5zk - 2011-08-15 13:47

    All Whites living in these name changed towns,Print your original town name and street name on your house walls so that a traveler knows where he is and not in Africa somewhere.lost for ever.

  • Caroline - 2011-08-15 13:47

    When I talk about an old town by using its new name and get that blank expression from people, I simply switch back to the old name. Never mind what the old names stand for the new names only seem to confuse everyone! I dont think its worth the money or effort. Rather give new places new names relevant to a New SA.

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 13:54

      When I was in travel, trying to entice Brits to visit SA... "why don't you consider a trip to Mpumalanga" - "Mpumalanga, what's that" - "Formerly the Eastern Transvaal" - "OH South Africa!"

  • kamikaze - 2011-08-15 13:50

    if you build a house around a toilet, do you call the new structure a toilet or a house? in the same way, if you build a town and infrastructure where there once was nothing, or at best a few mud huts in the nearby vicinity, surely YOU get to name the town. changing names of towns is nothing more than theft - claiming responsibility for creating an infrastructure where there once was nothing, in which neither you or your forefathers had made any positive contribution towards planning or maintenance thereof, and had the "setters" not come along there would probably still only be a couple of mud huts today. if anything, the old names should be kept to honour the "settlers" who created the infrastructure which is now there for everyone to use!

      omrisho - 2011-08-15 14:00

      what labour was used to build the infrastructure?

      Johnny - 2011-08-15 14:15

      omrisho, wow is that your best shot

      omrisho - 2011-08-15 14:21

      johhny... straight question, you got a straight answer?

      Totman - 2011-08-15 15:15

      @omrisho. Paid labour. Now you going to come with "they was not paid well". They could refused to work for that monies. "They had to work to eat" What were they eating before these settlers came to the area? Were they there or so concentrated in the area that they could have claim a town/city name or should they rather just claim an area name? On the hind side. The old people done a lot of there labour partly themselves. You think my argument does not make sense. Neither does yours asking" what labour" We can change names, but to try to ignore a group's history, totally, is not fair either. I would have also be angry if anyone was doing that to me.

      Totman - 2011-08-15 15:16

      Sorry. They "were"

      umhlopo - 2011-08-15 15:23

      omrisho - the labour was paid for

      Poor White - 2011-08-15 15:26

      At omrisho: Black people were not allowed to practice a trade, so who was the brick layer?

      Poor White - 2011-08-15 15:34

      at Totman, I would give you 10 thumbs up, alas only allowed one. There will always be people like omrisho that come with a "feel sorry" who built the infrastructure in an arguement.

      John - 2011-08-16 08:31

      According to omrisho,the Irish will claim the Manchester Ship Canal and all the other canals in Britian as well as the motorways

      Mordor-isSA - 2011-08-16 09:01

      Yes omrisho and what brains were used!!

  • Hunter 008 - 2011-08-15 14:02

    Street names in Durban have changed but people still use the old names, even when mentioned on East Coast Radio !!It was a total waste of money. What has Smith, Pine and West streets got to do with apartheid ?? Why change them....stupid !! They have even tried to change Broad street in Durban North to SWAPO street !! WTF !!!!SWAPO just gets sprayed over with black paint !! This is supposed to be the New SA !! What a joke !!

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 15:42

      Tell me about it - almost died laughing when I returned to Pinetown. Old Main Road... ooh, THAT'S offensive... what's it called now? Hang on a mo... I actually forgot... Josiah Gumede! WTF? Or Shepstone Road which became Qashana Khuzwayo... Firstly, to heck with those new names. Secondly, how do you even say or write these things... Thirdly, how about the renaming in Toti to "commemorate" a filthy bomber? How the FFFF is that aiding reconciliation?!

      Poor White - 2011-08-15 16:30

      At Hunter 008...... Some dead Indian is spinning around Indian Heaven wanting to know why they renamed Point Rd after him.

      Kevin - 2011-08-15 16:53

      Whats even more amusing is that my labourers do not know who Kenneth Kaunda is!!!When i explain that he was a despot president of Zambia who stole the countries coffers too enrich himself....they just shake their heads.The systematic changing of names in Durban North i.e Broadway to SWAPO was just to antagonise the residents whom are predominantly white.Thanks to our resident commie Sutcliffe!! Probably the most hated whitie in Durban!!!

  • DEVILS SON - 2011-08-15 14:03


      Matt :-) - 2011-08-16 09:15

      Scary thing - if you look at adverts for e.g. Shoprite, their prices are valid in: Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West excluding certain towns in the far West like Zeerust... er, together this region comprises... you guessed it... the Transvaal boundaries!

  • Lood Burger - 2011-08-15 14:13


      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 15:36

      Noem die ou name net "tribal taal" en bly aangaan met die Afrikaans name :-)

  • Johnny - 2011-08-15 14:16

    name changing wastes money, use the money for NHI!!!!!!

  • kamikaze - 2011-08-15 14:16

    asking what labour was used is such a cop-out; Does an architect take credit for his design or the labourers? should VW in Germany let the labourers in Port Elisabeth get to keep the cars that they are building? would any of those labourers have been galvanized into building those towns, buildings, cars, or whatever if it was not for the foresight of someone who gave them the job? merely being involved in the construction of something doesn't automatically give you ownership rights!

      omrisho - 2011-08-15 14:26

      sheez, at least acknowledge the fact that many a black man had an input... the architect's building is worth nothing if not built properly, give credit where credit is due

      omrisho - 2011-08-15 18:29

      i did not say it gives ownership rights, anywhere, all i said was the fact needs to be acknowledged... that's all

      fraidycat - 2011-08-15 20:33

      OK @omrisho - IF any black labour was used, they did a good job, because the architect had a good plan. Sort of like what @kamikaze said...chicken and egg situation. Fact is we are wasting money changing names. Once we have sorted out all the social problems and we still have money left over to play with - by all means change the names.

  • Zulu Whyte - 2011-08-15 14:31

    Gerard van de Water, who owns an antique shop, acknowledged the new name but lamented the change. "The drive in this country is to do away with white men's names, whatever it costs," he said. "This place is no longer worthy to be called Lydenburg, anyway. Mashishing fits 100% with what the town is becoming, with all the potholes in the streets." Did it fit well when it was initially changed from Mashishing to Lydenburg in 1850 when the 'new' settlement was found?

      Totman - 2011-08-15 15:29

      See Zulu Whyte that is where some make the mistakes. The whites did not stay where the black people stayed. They were to scared and maybe also do not wanted to stay with them. They took a empty place and started develop that. The area could have been called a name, but the town or city would have been a new development mostly on a clean piece of land. To answer your question on if it fit them well when choosing/changing too the name Lydenburg: Sorry, I could not found any record of the amount of potholes in the tar roads at that time to see if it fitted them well.

  • Zulu Whyte - 2011-08-15 14:35

    Thats the pain of change. Thats how people who lived in Mgungundlovu had to suddenly call it or refer to it as Pietermaritzburg, etc

      Mrdoit - 2011-08-15 15:27

      Changes are here to happen so change before changes change u

      Totman - 2011-08-15 15:32

      You are correct. New rulers, new names and methods. Only in older nations with less tribes/groups they will maintain names. That is the pain of change.

      Poor White - 2011-08-15 16:54

      Zulu Whyte, I hope it's only your Geography that's your weakest point. Bet you ask for directions when travelling.

      kamikaze - 2011-08-15 22:21

      and what about the poor khoi-san? the zulu's took THEIR land by force. it is arroagant of black south africans to claim land naming rights, the honour should befall the khoi-san (that is, the few that werent murdered by the bantu nations as they migrated down from matabeleland (now known as zimbabwe)

  • Rudie - 2011-08-15 14:48

    What about Nigel? Hehe :)

  • DABOSS247365 - 2011-08-15 15:28

    All in all, yes, change against your tide is a difficult thing to get used to, but all in all, in many cases its necessary... Houtkop road? cmon guys, seriously, thats something thats in need of change. On the other hand, how much money does this cost? I'm curious about the guys that live in these renamed towns think? the ones without internet access? name change or house? namechange or bread? it costs millions to change the names of a place... millions that could have been used to make a far deeper impact than a name change. So yeah, I agree, if the names of places bring a memory of repression, change it, by all means (DF MAlan to Beyers Naude? necessary change) it is a part of history we dont need to be reminded of each day, nor does it deserve any credit in the current climate... Then Pretoria? why change what has been for generations, served all through history? but hey, thats just my opinion.

  • citizen - 2011-08-15 15:46

    Such a ruckus! But obviously something that affects us all. For the record, Nelspruits name has not yet been changed. I am all for change, but agree with so many of the comments here that it is a waste of money in a lot of respect. Rather build houses. People (of all colours) just want a roof over their head and running water - they don't really care what you call the area they live in.

  • Virginia - 2011-08-15 16:04

    Whats in a name, I still talk about the transvaal,Border and Natal. The places have changes anyway so they warrant the new name it goes with the conditions.Place names should only be changes if there is proof in the history books that it did have another name, other then that names should remain. When the chinese take over this country, we will have another change of names so dont worry be happy.

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-15 16:17

      People are already starting to look at you funny if you refer to Vaalies...

      Poor White - 2011-08-15 16:43

      So the lesson to be learned here is to learn to speak Chinese, and quickly. ANC can make this happen by having the street name signs printed in China. The T-shirts they hand out already comes from there.

  • Marius Rossouw - 2011-08-15 19:03

    I have not a clue what is the current political names of towns but if you call the town by it's original name I will know exactly what you are talking about. If that make me a racist then so be it as it is exactly what it make the people that changed the names in the first place.

  • June - 2011-08-15 20:12

    Nobody but Nobody uses the new street names most people do not know what they are nor do they care so you lot have wasted our money for nothing.

  • Marius Rossouw - 2011-08-15 21:00

    Mashishing. Hahahaha! That may be the name of a signpost but a town in my South Africa it is not.

  • frankm - 2011-08-15 22:42

    What a shock, I have just found out I no longer live in the Transvaal!!

      Matt :-) - 2011-08-16 09:15

      Scary thing - if you look at adverts for e.g. Shoprite, their prices are valid in: Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West excluding certain towns in the far West like Zeerust... er, together this region comprises... you guessed it... the Transvaal boundaries!

  • Theuns - 2011-08-16 08:57

    Daar is 'n baie goeie rede, en dit is die enigste goeie rede, waarom die ANC die name verander: want hulle kan!

  • di - 2011-08-16 09:47

    I think Moore Rd (or some road or other) in Durban is called Fidel Castro:) Was he Zulu, Xhosa, South or North Sotho, sorry my memory fails me ... Fine upstanding gentleman, pillar of society, I believe!

  • alv1990 - 2011-08-16 10:03

    Personally, I ignore these names.....they are pathetic and a waste of the taxpayers money....besides, they are difficult to pronounce !!

  • mynah - 2011-08-16 10:03

    Before the name of Verwoerdburg was changed, residents got the opportunity to vote for a new name, and thus the name Centurion was chosen by popular vote. For this reason the new name was widely accepted. By contrast, many current name changes happen stealthily without consultation of the residents: In some cases the first locals know of the decision is when they wake up to brand new signs along the potholed roads. Taxpayers not only have to shell out for cosmetic and non-vital changes, but have to foot the bill for adopting new names for their businesses as well. Furthermore, locals may know the new name of their town, but travelers can't hope to find their way without GPSes and garmins. In some bilingual countries towns have two names, and residents can choose which one they use. Why can't we do that here? In that way the most popular name will prevail in the end.

  • M5 - 2011-08-16 11:31

    The ANC are driving this country into the ground... Pointless name changing and to what end? The other issue: Can anybody pronounce the new names? Imagine being a tourist here!!! Look at the rest of Africa for clues... This is what will happen to SA if the ANC is left unchecked...

  • kobus.erasmus - 2011-08-16 11:51

    Lydenburg will always be Lydenburg, just like Pretoria will never be Tshwane - you can change names but not history.

  • Stroller - 2011-08-16 12:14

    If I were a resident of Lydenburg I would welcome the change. I used to travel to Lydenburg frequently during the seventies and I was always impressed by its neatness, tidiness and everything was in good working order. Today it is a dump: The pavements are unkept, the street signs are about non existent and many that have survived are in urgent need of replacement. There are many things that need to maintained and adressed. There is litter everywhere and the people urinate in full public view. It has no right to still be called Lydenburg. The same goes for Bethlehem. I couldn't believe how a place like that could deteriorate. Hasten and change the name.

  • FV De Wet - 2011-08-16 12:37

    There is only one good reason why these changes are made. It is to eliminate the history of the Afrikaner Settlers that developed most of the country (with PAID BLACK LABOUR, NOT BLACK SLAVES) and effectively change the "OWNERSHIP" of "EVERYTHING" to that of something or someone BLACK (aka Africaniize SA). A few comments describe it perfectly, to have had a hand in building it, does not mean that you are entitled to "ownership" and that is why so many changes go without public debate. The ANC and their supporters have not and will never be able to develop any piece of SA land into something other than a dumping ground. It is the same where AA and BEE come from. We are the only country where AA and BEE are in favour of the MAJORITY instead of the MINORITY. The only plan the ANC has and will ever have with these policies is not to develop, grow and sustain, but to SIMPLY TAKE FROM OTHERS, RENAME IT AND CLAIM they owned it before the settlers arrived!!

  • FV De Wet - 2011-08-16 12:40

    Which in any case is a sack of sh.t as HISTORY represents everything including the atrocities of whites for centuries. So, if "our history" shows both good and evil and clearly stated that the land "we" developed was mainly uninhabited, then I believe "our" history 100% instead of some history that has been made up from word-of-mouth cultures over hundreds of years without ever documenting it, but because they are black and in the majority, they can simply take and claim ownership WITHOUT PROOF because some distant ancestor from 1420 broke one of his clay pots and did not CLEAN UP after himself. So their proof is actually nothing more than rubbish that was never cleaned up, pretty much what SA looks like today anyway. S

  • mizthanggp - 2011-08-16 13:00

    ok so there is jabu, themba, muzi and they rape, kill, opress, dehumanise etc. they commit all these crimes against humanity and then they have roads, cities etc named after them. how are the victims supposed to feel. now gert or jan or marie has to see their names knowing what they did to them or their faimilies. put the shoe on the other foot, there is more to this issue than changing a name just for the sake of it. granted, hunger, poverty , homelessness are issues which should come first but this is an issue which also requires a great deal of attention.

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