New Tshwane street names can go up - ConCourt

2016-07-21 17:04
FILE: Road sign changes.

FILE: Road sign changes.

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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court on Thursday set aside a High Court interdict preventing the City of Tshwane from renaming certain streets. 

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng rejected as "mind-boggling" civil rights group Afriforum's argument that looking at names linked to other race groups would cause "harm and toxicity" to white Afrikaners.

"This leaves very little room for the acceptance of black people as fellow human beings deserving of human dignity and equality, talk less of honouring them for their pursuit of justice and freedom in South Africa," he said in the court's majority judgment.

The city applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against an order the full bench of the High Court in Pretoria granted to Afriforum halting the renaming of streets. This was pending a review of the city's decision to change the names.

Mogoeng said Afriforum's case was "extremely weak".

He said the harm Afriforum said it would be exposed to if the old names were replaced was "the gradual loss of place or sense of belonging" and that it "would cause emotional hurt or suffering to those who cherish them". 

'Divisive, selfish'

This was "highly insensitive" to other cultural or racial groups.

"It is divisive, somewhat selfish and does not seem to have much regard for the centuries-old deprivation of 'a sense of place and a sense of belonging' that black people have had to endure." 

As a result, the victims of colonialism and apartheid were entitled to orders directing authorities to remove names that perpetuated the colonial and apartheid legacy, Mogoeng said. 

Any indirect or even inadvertent displays of racial intolerance, marginalisation and insensitivity, by whites or blacks, had to be resoundingly rejected.

"South Africa still looks very much like Europe away from Europe. A very insignificant number of names of our cities, towns and streets gives recognition to the indigenous people of this country and other black people. Very little recognition or honour is given to their heritage, history, heroes and heroines in their own motherland." 

On March 29, 2012, the City decided to rename streets in Pretoria, following a public participation process in several wards.

Four-year court battle

Afriforum approached the High Court for a restraining order against the city. The court ordered the city to keep the old street names below the new ones for six months.

In that time, Afriforum was supposed to have filed an application to review the city's decision to rename the streets.

That six-month period lapsed, and Afriforum eventually filed its review application in December 2012. That application was still pending in the High Court.

On April 5, 2013, Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa announced that the old street names would be removed.

This led to Afriforum applying to the High Court for an interim interdict against the city, pending the finalisation of the review process.

The High Court granted the order against the city, preventing it from removing the old street names and directing it to put back those it had removed, pending the review.

The city appealed to a full bench of the High Court, which found in favour of Afriforum and said the previous order was correct.

'Deeper analysis' needed

On August 3, 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the city's application for special leave to appeal the High Court’s ruling. This led to the appeal to the Constitutional Court. 

Justices Johan Froneman and Edwin Cameron however disagreed with Mogoeng's judgment and a concurring one by Justice Chris Jafta. 

They held that the municipality suffered no irreparable harm and that the separation of powers had not been breached.

It was not in the interests of justice to allow a dispute about a temporary order to drag on for more than three years, involving 19 judges, while the main review was still undecided. 

The implication to be drawn from the first judgment was that any reliance by white South Africans, particularly Afrikaners, on a cultural tradition founded in history, found no recognition in the Constitution, because that history was rooted in oppression, the dissenting judgment said.

"The oppressive history is there. But the constitutional discountenancing of a cultural history many continue to treasure has momentous implications for a substantial portion of our population. It invites deeper analysis."

They wished to see a longer, gentler and more accommodating debate than what had been heard in the present case. 

Read more on:    afriforum  |  pretoria

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