The Tshwane metro was ordered to stop removing old street names in Pretoria for the time being.
The High Court in Pretoria today instructed the metro to refrain from removing street names pending the finalisation of an ongoing adjudication process.
Judge Bill Prinsloo also ordered the municipality to put the old street names back.
“Pending the final adjudication of the review action ... the respondent is interdicted and restrained from removing street and road signs bearing the old names of streets forming the subject of the review action,” he said.
“The respondent is also ordered, within two months from the date of this order, to restore and replace such signs bearing such old names to their positions on the streets ...”
Civil rights group AfriForum brought the application. AfriForum lawyer Reinhard Groenewald argued earlier this week the Tshwane metro’s decision to rename streets with neutral names like Zambezi Drive was questionable.
“The reason given for the street name changes was because they are offensive, a colonial legacy, and a legacy of apartheid. There is no rational connection between Church Street or Zambezi Drive with those categories,” said Groenewald.
“If they (Tshwane metro) go outside their own decision, such decisions are open to review.”
He said changing street names would cause inconvenience to people as the new names were unknown and not on maps and navigation devices.
“If, for example, one’s relatives are on the way to Pretoria, they lose their way and they are stuck in Sefako Makgatho Drive (formerly Zambezi Drive). If they call you and give you the new street, that name is in no map,” Groenewald argued.
“They get stuck there at 2 o’clock in a purely unsafe country. There is practical potential harm.”
Terry Motau, for Tshwane, had initially argued the application was not urgent and should be struck off the roll. After that bid failed, Motau then presented the municipality’s version to the court.
“My lord, if you are used to get petrol at a Sasol garage and later (the same garage) is now called BP, is there a risk that you would get lost?
“The issue is not that because now Vermeulen (Street) is now called Madiba (Street), and, coming from Joburg, does that mean I am not going to find the court?
“We know what happens if you get to a place which you don’t know. You get to a shop, garage, or a restaurant and you ask.”
He said the facts did not support suggestions that tourists and diplomats were used to the old Pretoria street names.
“We tour overseas countries and we rely on tour guides. Which diplomat or tourist is lost? We do not know the facts, but I am illustrating the dangers of speculation,” said Motau.
He asked the court to dismiss AfriForum’s application with costs.
Several street name signs in the capital city had been bearing dual names, but recently the old names had been removed.
In his state of the city address earlier this month, Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said the dual street name signs displayed on 27 streets in the city would be removed after the expiration of a set six-month period.
“We have exceeded that period. Now is the time that Lilian Ngoyi (Street) comes to life and Van der Walt (Street) goes to rest,” said Ramokgopa.